Former President Jimmy Carter shared recently that he is being treated for four spots of melanoma on his brain, sparking a national conversation and revealing some misconceptions that persist about melanoma.
In light of this conversation, we asked renowned melanoma researcher Dr. Sancy Leachman to dispel some of the most common myths she hears about this disease.
Myth #1: Brain cancer starts in the brain.
Fact: Often, people think that cancers that are in the brain start in the brain, but many cancers, especially melanoma, start on the skin but spread to the brain or the liver or other organs. The way that cancer kills you is through the metastasis that keeps vital organs from performing life-critical functions.
Myth #2: Men are diagnosed with melanoma more frequently than women.
Fact: Because melanoma rates are highest in men over 55, like Jimmy Carter, many people don’t realize that the rates of melanoma are increasing in young women and that melanoma is the leading cancer in women aged 26-29.
Myth #3: Sun exposure from my past doesn’t put me at risk for melanoma.
Fact: Just because sun exposure happened many years ago doesn’t mean your overall risk of developing melanoma is less, your cumulative sun damage and genetic risk (red hair, light skin, family history, etc) hasn’t changed.
Interested in helping researchers figure out how to best prevent, treat and detect melanoma? Join the new Melanoma Community Registry.
Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., is a physician-scientist who chairs the Department of Dermatology and is the director of the Melanoma Research Program at the Knight Cancer Institute. She is a dermatologist using basic science research and state-of-the-art technology to combat skin cancer.