Dr. Valeriya Mateeva, MD: Skin cancer is an epidemic that does not go away

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Dr. Valeriya Mateeva, MD: Skin cancer is an epidemic that does not go away
Dr. Valeriya Mateeva, MD: Skin cancer is an epidemic that does not go away

The 15th National Campaign "Euromelanoma" - 2020 for the prevention and early detection of skin cancer, organized by the Bulgarian Dermatology Society, in partnership with the European Association of Dermato-Oncology and with the support of "EAU THERMALE AVENE" is launched.

The goal is to increase public awareness of malignant skin neoplasms, the possibilities of preventing their development, as well as the benefit of early and timely detection of the problem.

During last year's campaign, 1167 patients were examined by 210 dermatologists in Bulgaria. About 200 lesions were identified that required follow-up or treatment. Among them, 53 cases of skin carcinomas and 15 people with suspected malignant melanoma. From 2005 to today, more than 26,000 prophylactic examinations have been carried out in the country within the framework of Euromelanoma.

This is what this year's coordinator of the campaign for Bulgaria shared, Dr. Valeria Mateeva - dermatologist at the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Dr. Mateeva, will the campaign be successful enough in the conditions of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

- I think that now people are sitting longer at home and spending more time on their he alth. This is a convenient time to examine your skin yourself for suspicious skin cancer spots and moles. Our message this year is to motivate people to self-examine their skin monthly. In addition, the media in this environment pays more attention to he alth issues.

Although the coronavirus pandemic is a human tragedy, it is a temporary problem that will pass. However, skin cancer is a persistent problem that claims an average of 125,000 lives each year, and its incidence is constantly increasing.

What disease is melanoma and what are its statistics?

- Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer in which there is an uncontrolled growth of malignant cells in the skin and then spreads to other organs. For the last 10 years, the cases of melanoma in the world have increased by 50% and reach almost 300,000 people. According to statistical forecasts, by 2025, cases of melanoma skin cancer are expected to increase by 18%, which means 340,000 cases, with the death rate increasing by about 20%. And by 2040, nearly half a million people will be diagnosed with melanoma, an increase of 62%, with the death rate expected to increase by 74%.

What are the risk factors for melanoma?

- Since 1956, it has been clear that sun exposure and skin cancer go hand in hand. But most people who are now over 50 have gone their lives without protecting themselves from the sun's rays. This is a ticking time bomb for these people, because the risk of developing melanoma increases with age.

Men are 10% more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer (than women) and are more likely to die from it.

Severe sunburn in childhood is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer.

All UV radiation can be harmful. Using a tanning bed before the age of 30 can increase the risk of melanoma in adulthood tenfold. More people develop skin cancer from indoor tanning than smokers develop lung cancer. Therefore, in some European countries, solariums are prohibited for people under the age of 18.


Work should also be done on the prevention of occupational exposure to the sun. Employers to provide protection for their workers outdoors.

If the climate crisis worsens (the holes in the ozone layer increase), it may turn out that predictions of a 62% increase in melanoma cases in 2040 are too optimistic. We can't even imagine what the scale of the problem will be then.

Skin cancer is a pandemic that will not go away.

We dermatologists believe that melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer are a huge problem for the world. Therefore, this year we have three main goals in the fight against skin cancer. The first goal is to increase public awareness of risk factors, the second is to reduce intentional sun exposure, and the third is to make regular self-examination of the skin a lasting habit.

In terms of public awareness of risk factors, 92% of people now know that exposure to the sun can cause serious he alth problems. But only 18% of these people always protect their skin with adequate sun protection. A large part only protects the skin of their children, because 75% know that the development of skin cancer is related to exposure to the sun and the number of sunburns in childhood and adolescence.

Regular preventive examinations at a dermatologist is our most important goal. Because only 11% of people with moles at real risk of developing malignant melanoma are seen by a dermatologist, that's only one in 10 people.

Furthermore, only a third of people check their moles on their own at least once a year. And we want to encourage people to check their own skin every month, as well as to check the skin of the people they love and care about. This can be done with a reminder by phone

One natural event that can be seen from anywhere on the globe can remind you of the monthly self-examination - it's the full moon. It is this reminder that is at the heart of our Euromelanoma campaign for 2020. That is why we have two elements on the campaign poster: if it's sunny, protect your skin; if it's a full moon, check your skin yourself.

When is it mandatory to seek help from a dermatologist?

- If you find even the smallest problem formation on the skin, you should go to a dermatologist. In addition, people with moles and skin spots should seek professional examination at least once a year.

Where can I find information about how to recognize malignant moles and about free preventive examinations?

- We have a Facebook page with a lot of information about skin cancer, how to check yourself. Information about the examinations will be uploaded and updated on the website of the Bulgarian Dermatology Society www.bg-derm.org and on the campaign website www.euromelanoma.org/bulgaria. The doctors' schedule will also be published there.

Over 200 Bulgarian dermatologists will volunteer their time to perform free examinations for skin cancer (melanoma). To avoid gathering more people in one place, the dates of the free examinations will be determined individually by the dermatologists. The sites have a link to the list of doctors and their schedules in an accessible place. So people will be able to find a dermatologist in their city with a free exam schedule that suits them. This year, booking an appointment in advance by phone is absolutely mandatory. The campaign will continue until September with the participation of different clinics and doctors, but not at the same time.

Check your skin for spots and moles

• that change their size, color and/or shape

• look different, compared to the others

• are asymmetrical or have uneven borders

• are rough or rough to the touch (sometimes you feel

violations before you see them)

• are multicolored

• itchy

• blood or discharge flows from them

• look shiny

• look like a wound but don't heal


• Seek shade and avoid mid-day summer sun

• Wear long-sleeved clothes, wide-brimmed hats

• Wear sunglasses with UV protection.

• For children, choose clothes with built-in sun protection

• Wear sunscreen with a high protection factor against both UVB and UVA rays

• Sunscreens begin to work about half an hour after application and the protection lasts only two to three hours

• Children are at the highest risk of long-term he alth problems. So never let your child get sunburnt.

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