What is Melanoma?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and is largely preventable. 1 out of 5 people in America will get skin cancer in a course of a lifetime and one person dies from melanoma every hour. By wearing daily sunscreen with reapplication, you can cut your melanoma risk in half. Nearly 90% of non melanoma skin cancers and 65% of melanoma skin cancers are attributed to sunlight exposure; however, skin cancer can present in non sun exposed areas. UV radiation from the sun damages our skin and increases our risk.
What causes Melanoma?
Melanoma appears as a new or changing mole, most frequently on the back of men or legs of women. It can appear anywhere on body and is associated with ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. The most dangerous risks for melanoma include sunburns during childhood, fair skin/light eyes, and a personal or family history of melanoma.
Some important ways to stay protected involve preventative behaviors and screenings. The most important protection is staying out of tanning beds and avoiding the peak hours of sun exposure – usually between 10 am and 2 pm. As many people are active and enjoy outdoor activities, using sunscreen is important when outside. Some key pointers to stay protected include using a minimum SPF of 30 (which measures UVB protection), using a sunscreen that says “broad spectrum” (which includes UVA protection), wearing hats and protective clothing and reapplying sunblock every 2 hours.
People that are high risk or have concerning lesions should be checked by their dermatology provider. We instruct patients to watch out for the “ABC’s” of melanoma: ASYMMETRY, BORDER, COLOR, DIAMETER, EVOLUTION; which means looking for moles that have one half not matching the other, irregular border, different colors in one mole, diameter larger than a pencil eraser, and any other change. If you have noticed any change, it should prompt an evaluation and possibly a biopsy/removal of the mole. We recommend a yearly body screening to take preventative measures and have your health care provider take an in-depth look and track any changes.
How can I treat Melanoma?
Surgery is typically the mainstay of treatment and usually curative for superficial lesions. Occasionally, more involved treatment may be required for deeper melanomas.
After your surgery, your risk of skin cancer can be reduced by protecting yourself from the sun and visiting your doctor for regular check-ups.