Paul M. Graham, D.O.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month and this is my opportunity to educate our readers on this very important topic. Melanoma Awareness Month aims to increase awareness about melanoma and the risk factors associated with its development. In this article, we will discuss important information that everyone should know about melanoma.
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer by which pigment-producing cells within the skin and the body become defective, grow rapidly, and have the potential to spread to distant locations within the body. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer, which accounts for approximately 75% of all skin cancer fatalities. Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body that contains pigment cells, such as the eyes, nails, mouth, genital region, brain, and the skin. With the incidence of melanoma increasing significantly over the past 30 years, individuals should seek to have yearly full body skin exams by your dermatologist to decrease and prevent the development of this deadly skin cancer.
- Melanoma accounts for approximately 1% of all skin cancers but is responsible for a large majority of skin cancer deaths
- Melanoma is 20x more common in whites than blacks
- The overall lifetime risk of developing melanoma is approximately 1 in 40 for whites, 1 in 1000 for blacks, and 1 in 200 for hispanics. This is dependent on many different risk factors as mentioned below
- Approximately 87,110 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2017 with approximately 9,730 people expected to die of melanoma
*Data taken from the American Cancer Society (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html)
Melanoma Risk Factors
Melanoma is most common in light/fair skin individuals and those who have been exposed to high levels of sun exposure. Sunburns and tanning beds are two large risk factors associated with the development of melanoma. Melanoma Awareness Month aims to encourage people to conduct self-skin exams regularly and seek treatment if there are recognized signs of melanoma as discussed below. Early detection and treatment is key and is associated with much higher survival rates. Melanoma Awareness Month has also helped save lives by educating the public about melanoma and encouraging early detection with yearly skin exams and prompt initiation of treatment if signs of melanoma exist.
What to Look For to Recognize Melanoma
To help spread awareness and educate the public on the signs of melanoma, dermatologist typically use a mnemonic: The ABCDE’s of Melanoma
A – Asymmetry: is the mole asymmetrical?
B – Border: does the border or edge of the mole look uneven or jagged?
C – Color: is the mole one uniform color?
D – Diameter: is the mole larger than a pencil eraser (>6mm)?
E – Evolving: has the mole changed in shape, size or color?
Early Detection Is Crucial
As with many other types of cancer, treatments are more successful with early detection and initiation of treatment. When melanoma is found at a later stage or has spread to distant parts of the body, treatment options are limited. Currently, melanoma treatments with medication do not provide a cure but do show promising results and longer survival rates. These medications have the potential to extend life for several months. Prognosis is typically poor for advanced stages of melanoma, hence early detection is critical for successful treatment. If you suspect you have a mole that meets any of the above signs, please schedule an appointment with your dermatologist promptly. If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments below.
Check out some of our other articles:
- Beware Of A Base Tan
- Benign vs Malignant Moles: What to Look for
- Anti-Aging Secrets: The Daily Skincare Routine
- How Effective Is Your Sunscreen?
Spread the word and lives will be saved!
Visit the American Academy of Dermatology Website for more information: https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer
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