Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and the rate of incidences continues to rise at a rate faster than other common cancers.  Melanoma starts in the pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes) which grow uncontrollably, become abnormal and aggressively invade the surrounding tissues.  The suspicious characteristics a melanoma may take on are: asymmetric (one side of the mole is not the same as the other side), border (irregular notched borders), color (speckled with light and dark areas) and diameter (usually larger than 6 mm).  If it is not treated early, it can spread to other organs and can be fatal.  If you sunburn, you increase your risk of developing a melanoma. The most important advice is never sunburn and use sun protectors with an SPF of 30 or greater.  Heredity plays a significant role in that if a first-degree relative (mother, father, sibling or children) have had a melanoma then there is a 50% greater chance of developing a melanoma.  If melanomas are found early, they are no problem and are easily curable.

Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer. You can prevent and detect skin cancer:

  • Prevent: Seek shade, cover up and wear sunscreen
  • Detect: Look for new or changing spots on your skin
  • Live: See a Dermatologist if you spot anything changing

You can download the American Academy of Dermatology’s Body Mole Map to document your self examination.

Body Mole Map ( jpg file)                                    Body Mole Map (PDF file)

Treatment Options:

Melanoma is initially treated by surgically removing the cancerous area. If cancer is progressed, then other extensive treatment options are used.  Melanoma most often develops in a pre-existing mole or looks like a new mole, which is why it is important for people to know what their moles look like and be able to detect changes to existing moles and spot new moles.

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