Melanoma

What it is:

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. These cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells, caused by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, triggers mutations. The skin cells then multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. 

Melanomas often resemble moles. Some develop from moles. Most melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue, or white. 

If melanoma is detected and treated early, the cure rate is excellent. If a melanoma is not caught in time, the cancer can spread to other areas of the body and be deadly. Not all melanomas are caused by sun exposure. It is important to look everywhere, even in areas that are not exposed.

Use the ABCDE’s to evaluate your skin:

A-Asymmetry, meaning one half doesn’t look like the other

B-border irregularity, a jagged or scalloped edge

C-color, either multiple colors in one lesion or one very dark color

D-diameter, anything greater than 6mm or the size of a pencil eraser

E-evolution, some sort of change 

Treatment:

The first step can be to remove the melanoma surgically. Surgical techniques have improved in the last decade, and much less tissue is removed during the excision, scars are smaller, and the procedure has a faster recovery and is easier to tolerate. Mohs micrographic surgery may also be a good option to remove your melanoma. 

In most cases, the surgery can be done as an outpatient procedure under local anesthetic or in the doctor’s office. 

If your cancerous melanoma has advanced to stage 3 or 4, you may need additional therapies, such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or other targeted therapies, to ensure the cancer is eradicated. 

Everyone needs to have regular skin checks with the doctor for early detection and to make sure that no further melanomas develop.