The American Academy of Dermatology established Melanoma Monday, which falls on the first Monday in May — May 6 this year, three weeks before National Safe Sun Week, to raise awareness of the symptoms, causes, and prevention of the disease and the day has come to be symbolized by wearing black clothing. Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, is developed by 1 out of every 50 Americans at some point in their lifetime. There are many ways to prevent melanoma so, today, take extra time to learn how to reduce your risk!
History of Melanoma Monday
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, didn’t make its way into recorded history until the 5th century B.C. Hippocrates, who first wrote about the disease, described it with the Greek terms ‘melas’ and ‘oma,’ meaning ‘dark’ and ‘tumor,’ respectively. There was little to no forms of treatment.
Very little additional understanding of melanoma was gained until the 18th century when the doctor John Hunter first removed a metastatic melanoma. While his procedure was successful, he really wasn’t sure exactly what he had done. He referred to the melanoma as a “cancerous fungous excrescence,” and it wasn’t until 1968 that the preserved tumor was identified as melanoma.
In the early 1800s, there were many advances in the medical understanding of melanoma. Dr. René Laennec was the first to distinguish melanoma, naming it ‘melanose’ in 1804. In 1826, Thomas Fawdington admitted that the medical profession was still very much in the dark about the causes of melanoma. Sir Robert Carswell later introduced the term ‘melanoma’ in 1838.
In 1844, melanoma was still thought of as untreatable. Samuel Cooper famously said the only hope for those with melanoma was early removal. Still, there was experimentation. In 1892, Herbert Snow championed the treatment of removing not only the tumor but the surrounding gland as well. An important 1905 development in treatment by William Handley led doctors to remove all subcutaneous tissue and lymph nodes surrounding the melanoma, which remained in practice for 50 years.
Modern knowledge of melanoma exploded in 1956, with the realization by Henry Lancaster that it was ultraviolet radiation and sunlight exposure that caused the disease. Today, we know that many genetic factors — like fair skin, family history, and eye color — all can indicate increased risk for melanoma, beyond simple sun exposure. Though there is a general understanding of how to prevent, identify, and treat melanoma today, research on the disease is still ongoing.
Melanoma Monday timeline
Though there is archaeological evidence of melanoma slightly earlier in Peru, it isn’t until Hippocrates comes around that melanoma is first recorded.
Dr. John Hunter becomes the first to successfully operate on and remove a metastatic melanoma — even though he isn’t exactly sure what it is at the time!
Sir Robert Carswell is the first to formally introduce the term ‘melanoma.’
The founding organization of Melanoma Monday, the American Academy of Dermatology, is established to advance treatments of hair, skin, and nails.
Henry Lancaster connects the dots to find that sunlight and UV radiation are key causes of melanoma.
Melanoma Monday FAQs
Where is Melanoma Monday celebrated?
While it is not technically a federal holiday, Melanoma Monday is primarily celebrated in the United States.
Are there other holidays on May 3?
Yes! May 3 is also National Paranormal Day.
Are there other national holidays about skin health or cancer?
Yes! The entire month of May has been designated by the American Academy of Dermatology as Melanoma Month. Additionally, February 4 is World Cancer Day, February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and July is UV Safety Month. There are even more!
How to Observe Melanoma Monday
Since Melanoma Monday was established by the American Academy of Dermatology, the color black has symbolized melanoma awareness. Don your best black attire and head out to spread some support and awareness.
Learn about melanoma prevention and diagnosis
Educating yourself is a great place to start! From prevalence in the population to risk factors to types of skin cancer, there’s a lot of information to be learned. If you think you are at risk or have a suspicious mole, schedule a skin screening.
Post #MelanomaMonday on social media
Since the day is all about spreading awareness of melanoma, what better way is there to reach people than through social media? Spreading prevention and diagnosis tips might just save the life of someone in your social circle.
5 Facts About Melanoma
Melanoma spreads quickly
Melanoma can spread in the body more quickly and earlier than many other forms of cancer.
Melanoma strikes young
While the average age for other cancer diagnoses is around 65–70 years old, the average age for a melanoma diagnosis is 50.
There are many risk factors
Red hair, more than 50 moles, a family history of melanoma, sunburns in childhood, and use of a tanning bed are all risk factors for the disease.
Melanoma is very treatable
While it’s true that melanoma can be deadly, it can be treatable if caught early — immediate detection is critical.
Stay out of the sun for lower risk
The most impactful way to lower your risk of melanoma is simple — practice sun safety and avoid being in the sun for long periods of time!
Why Melanoma Monday is Important
It raises awareness
Since the average age of a person with melanoma is younger than with most cancers, many people who are at risk aren’t really thinking about cancer yet. Melanoma Monday is an important step towards raising awareness and avoiding a painful and life-changing diagnosis.
It supports those with melanoma
Besides encouraging people at risk to get a skin screening, Melanoma Monday raises awareness about an illness that millions have battled. It shines a light on their struggle — wearing a skin cancer wristband or an all-black outfit helps them feel seen.
It offers resources
You might be aware of melanoma, but not of how to prevent or cure it. Knowing how to safely enjoy time in the sun and where to go to get a screening or treatment is crucial to lowering the impact of the disease in the population and avoiding a diagnosis of your own.
Melanoma Monday dates