Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Around 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year. The abnormal cell or cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells causes mutations in the skin. These are most often triggered by the sun or ultraviolet radiation and or tanning beds. These microscopic mutations cause cells to continue to grow unregulated by the body’s natural defense mechanisms. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the bottom layer of the skin called the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles.
Dr. Ricardo Mejia of Jupiter Dermatology states “Many patients are unaware of what a true mole is. Many times they look at their spots and say it is just a freckle when in fact it can be an abnormal mole”. Most melanomas are brown or black with irregular shapes, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma can be doubled by sunburns. Chronic or intense exposure to the sun can lead to melanomas especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
Melanomas do have the ability to appear in non-sun exposed areas. For this reason we can not emphasize enough the importance of full body skin exams in order to help find melanomas early and treat them effectively. Our physicians are constantly trying to empower our patients to learn what to look for in their moles.
The pneumonic device that we use to recognize possible melanomas is the A.B.C.D.E.’s of melanoma:
A – Asymmetry
B – Border Irregularity
C- Color (mixed colors)
D- Diameter (approximately 6 mm or the size of a pencil eraser)
E – Evolution (always be aware of any change!)
Always look for the “odd mole out” around your body. If something looks even a little bit come see Dr. Mejia and Ashley Hess PA-C!
- Every hour of every day, someone will die from the disease.
- 1 in 50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
- People under 30 are developing melanoma at an alarming rate- the incidence soaring by 50% in young women since 1980.
- Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25-29 & the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults aged 15-29.
- The American Cancer Society projects that nearly 77,000 will be diagnosed and 9,500 will die from melanoma this year.
- Every 8 minutes, someone in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma.
- Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans.
- People who have more than 50 moles, atypical moles, or a family history of melanoma are at increased risk of developing melanoma.
- Approximately 75% of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.
- The use of tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma especially in women under age 45.
Melanoma can be classified from stage 0 to stage IV, depending on the width and depth of the tumor. Since melanoma is much more likely to metastasize than other skin cancers, a biopsy of the lymph nodes near the tumor may be recommended. When a melanoma is found early, an excision can be done in which the tumor along with a ½ cm margin is removed. The excised area will then be sent to a dermatopathologist and checked to make sure that there are no cancerous cells in the margins. If the melanoma was categorized in one of the later stages, adjuvant therapy with interferon may help prevent melanomas from returning.
Radiation therapy is another option in the treatment of melanoma. If the melanoma progresses into the later stages and metastasizes to the point where it cannot be removed surgically then radiation, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy may be used in treatment.
A patient should always be aware that melanomas have the ability to recur.
Dr. Mejia wants to make sure that all patients, especially those with a personal or family history of melanoma, are always on the hunt for melanoma. If there is ever a questionable area, come get checked!
Hunt for Melanoma
Our skin is the largest organ in the body and consequently it requires close self-examination to properly spot and hunt for any abnormal changes.
Melanoma can often be found early. Everyone can play an important role in finding skin cancer early, when it is most likely to be cured.
Our self-awareness campaign for melanoma detection begins with you. The “Hunt for Melanoma” campaign was created to educate the public about education on melanoma and proper screening to help prevent melanomas. We are urging everyone to do self-examination on their moles and see their dermatologist for proper skin evaluation. Visit huntformelanoma.com to learn more information about how you could save yourself or someone else from the deadliest skin cancer melanoma.
It is important to check your own skin, preferably once a month. You should know the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any new moles or changes in existing moles.
Self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to help look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs. Examine all areas, including your palms and soles, scalp, ears, nails, and your back (in men, about 1 of every 3 melanomas occurs on the back). Friends and family members can also help you with these exams, especially for those hard-to-see areas, such as your scalp and back.