Understanding Skin Cancer: Melanoma

Jen Hayes, MD|November 2, 2015

Understanding Skin Cancer_MainHave you noticed any new spots such as moles, freckles or other discoloring on your skin since the summer? The summer months are a time where we become more aware of our body simply because more of it is exposed. It’s also the perfect opportunity to spot potential skin cancers. The time to get a full body skin exam is now! With all of the fun in the sun we’ve had this summer, it’s crucial to get your skin examined. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and its incidence is on the rise. The good news is that skin cancer is curable when caught early. At Advanced Skin Care & Dermatology, our Board-Certified dermatologists are committed to providing thorough, comprehensive exams to catch skin cancer at its earliest stages. Screening for skin cancer saves lives! What causes skin cancer? For starters, we know that UV rays cause cancer. These harmful rays cause direct damage to your skin’s DNA. There are two types of UV rays that contribute to skin cancer which are: UVA: This is the main player in causing wrinkles! It also damages our skin cells’ DNA and together with UVB, leads to skin cancer. UVA gets through the windows, which is why we say to wear sunscreen even when indoors. UVB: This is what causes sunburns. It has higher energy than UVA and is the leading cause of skin cancer. What is melanoma? There are a multitude of factors that contribute to melanoma, which is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Did you know that if you have had 5 or more sunburns, you are twice as likely to get melanoma? Scary, right? UV radiation is a major contributor to developing melanoma, so sun protection is crucial! But unfortunately, melanoma cannot be prevented with sun protection alone. Melanoma is hereditary and is more likely to show up in someone who has lots of moles and fair skin. Sadly, it’s estimated that there is almost one death from melanoma per hour. We know that the earlier we catch melanoma, the more likely we are to cure it. The thicker melanoma becomes, the more likely it is to spread to other parts of your body. This is why it’s critical to get annual skin checks. The truth is, dermatologists catch melanoma at an earlier stage than you or your primary care doctor can because we are trained in this area. Still, you should always keep an eye on your own skin, watch for changes and come see your dermatologist at least once a year. Do you know the ABCDE’s of melanoma? The ABCDE rule is a good way to spot melanoma on your own skin. Call us right away if you spot any of the following warning signs:

  • A is for asymmetry: Does one half of your mole look different than the other?
  • B is for border: Do the borders look jagged or blurred?
  • C is for color: Is there is more than one color?
  • D is for diameter: Is the spot is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser?
  • E is for evolving: Is the spot is changing in any way?

A small portion of melanoma skin cancers have atypical features that require a board certified dermatologist to catch. There is a specific type of melanoma called “amelanotic melanoma” that means that there is no pigment in the melanoma so it can easily be missed. As a result, it is often caught at a later stage and has a worse outcome. It can appear pink or even flesh-colored. This is another reason to come to our office for any new spot on your skin that you are concerned about. Any new spot is worth a visit! Just because melanoma is hereditary, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your part to protect your skin. It’s very important to be proactive and take measures like applying sunscreen every day. Apart from this, you should also try wearing hats, gloves and other garments to truly protect your skin. Before you roll your eyes, understand that it is possible to wear these accessories and still be fashionable. Our Pinterest board for fall and winter sun awareness fashion will show you how! If you want to learn more about skin cancer, stay tuned because the next article in this series will cover the most common type of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma. In the meantime, give us a call for your full body skin exam! During this Breast Cancer Awareness month, Dr. Bailey wants to encourage support for a wonderful organization called FORCE that fights breast and ovarian cancer. Help victims battle the fight by supporting this very deserving cause! For more information into how you can help, click here. HayesDr. Hayes - Board Certified Dermatologist

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