When it comes to skin cancer, melanoma is the most serious type and causes more deaths than any other skin cancer. Because of this, it’s vital to know the facts about melanoma.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a disease where skin cancer forms inside the cells that give your skin its color. These cancer cells are malignant and can spread to nearby tissue.
It Can Show Up Anywhere
The most common areas for melanoma are the arms and legs in women, and the head, neck and shoulders for men. Melanoma, though, can show up anywhere on the body in both men and women.
The Warning Signs of Melanoma
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your existing moles for any changes in their size, shape, color or texture. A changing mole is often the first clue that cancer is present.
Learn Your ABCDE’s
The “ABCDE” rule can help you identify moles that may be affected by melanoma.
Most melanoma spots are not perfect circles or ovals. Instead, they’re asymmetric. So, if you draw a line through the center and compare the two halves, they won’t match.
A mole affected by melanoma will often have an irregular border. Instead of being smooth and well defined, it will be scalloped, notched or in some way irregular.
A normal mole is evenly colored, whether that’s black, brown, or tan. But a mole that’s cancerous will be multiple colors. Look for different shades of the same color. Or, look for multiple colors in the same mole. Sometimes the splotches of color can even be white, red, pink, blue or gray.
If a dark spot is the size of a pencil eraser or bigger, that’s a warning sign. Still, melanomas can be smaller than one quarter inch diameter. It’s best to detect them while they’re still small.
Look for a mole that is new or changes over time. This includes a mole that becomes itchy or bleeds.
The main risk factor for developing melanoma is sun exposure.
Specifically, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Other risk factors include:
- Fair skin
- Light hair
- Advanced age
- Xeroderma pigmentosum
- Weakened immune system
- Personal or family history of skin cancer
Avoiding UV rays is the most important way to prevent melanoma. Wear sunscreen daily. Apply it at least 15 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it throughout the day because sunscreen loses its effectiveness as time goes by. Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing a hat, sunglasses and long sleeve clothing. Seek shade when possible and avoid being outside during the hottest time of the day. Also, avoid tanning lamps and sun lamps because they, like the sun, give off UV rays.
See a Dermatologist
Our dermatologists recommend you come in each year for a skin checkup. That’s when you’ll get a trained eye looking at your moles and freckles and letting you know if anything is amiss. They’ll ask you if any spots on your skin have changed over time. Also, they’ll look for asymmetry in your moles as well as their border, color, and diameter.
Contact us today to schedule your annual skin check up.