Nichole L. Wright, PA-C, GHS Carolina Dermatology of Greenville
May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is characterized by uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells. Fortunately, with early diagnosis and treatment, recovery chances are very good. Increased risk correlates to the depth of the melanoma, which is linked to the span of time it has been growing. In other words, earlier detection leads to thinner melanomas and better prognosis. The best way to detect a melanoma is through monthly self-examinations and an annual
total body skin evaluation.
The main cause of melanoma is excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays from the sun and tanning beds can damage skin cells, causing them to grow abnormally. To help prevent melanoma, reduce time in the sun, use doctor recommended sunscreens, and wear hats and sun-protective clothing. However, not all melanomas are UV-related. Other possible causes include genetic factors and immune deficiencies.
Melanoma can occur anywhere—even the soles of your feet or fingernails. In women, it most often is seen on the lower legs; in men, it most commonly occurs on the upper back. Traits that put you at increased risk are fair or sun-sensitive skin that burns easily, excess sun exposure during childhood, family history of melanoma, tanning bed use and blistering sunburns.
Melanoma can start as a new mole or grow near/in an existing mole. The ABCDEs of melanoma can help identify abnormal characteristics in a mole.
A: Asymmetry, B: Border (irregular, scalloped or notched), C: Color (multi-colored or pigment
dropping out of mole), D: Diameter (bigger than the end of a pencil eraser), E: Evolving (changing shape, size or color).
If you are at risk, get screened by your dermatologist or qualified healthcare professional. Urge your friends and family to do the same—you may be saving their lives!