What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer that affects the pigment producing cells in the skin called melanocytes. Risk factors for melanoma include UV exposure from the sun, tanning beds, numerous atypical moles (> 100), and a family history of melanoma
The most important information to know about melanoma is the depth of the cancer. Early stages (like stage 0 or stage 1) make up > 90% of all new melanoma diagnoses. Melanoma at this stage can be cured with a simple excision. When melanoma grows deeper, it can spread to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes or other organs. When melanoma begins to spread, it is called metastatic melanoma, and it becomes harder to treat. Treatment of metastatic melanoma becomes more difficult and usually requires chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation in addition to surgery.
People often think of Melanoma as a cancer that develops in existing moles, but the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that only 20-30% of melanomas form in existing moles, while 70-80% form on skin that appears normal.
You should pay attention to moles that change in appearance, or new moles that arise on formerly clear skin. Some irregularities to look out for include:
The mole has one side that is different from the other.
The mole has a blurry-looking, jagged, or irregular border.
The mole is different shades or inconsistently pigmented.
The mole is larger than 6mm in diameter.
The mole changes in appearance or begins exhibiting any of the aforementioned characteristics.
Coloration is important; not all melanomas are black, brown, or tan. Color variations can include white, pink, or even purple or blue shades.
If addressed before it has extended deeper into the skin or spread to other areas of the body, Melanoma can be highly treatable; however, if not caught early, treatment can be difficult and the cancer can become fatal.
Treatment is highly dependent on the stage of progression of the Melanoma, as well as other factors such as thickness, location, and your age, health, and medical history. At Optima Dermatology, we will work with you to develop the most appropriate treatment plan, and our expert staff apply the latest dermatological solutions to ensure your treatment is as effective as possible.
It is not known exactly what causes Melanoma, and certain factors such as family history, immune deficiency, or the presence of many freckles or moles on your skin can be risk factors.
There are lifestyle adjustments you can make to minimize your chances of developing Melanoma. Applying a 30+ SPF sunscreen thoroughly, especially on your ears, face, neck, forearms, legs, and hands. An SPF lip moisturizer or chapstick is also recommended for periods of sun exposure – and don’t forget about the top of your head! If you can’t apply sunscreen directly to your scalp, wear a hat, especially one with SPF protection.
Having regular skin checks and being aware of changes.