May is Melanoma/ Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer which develops in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. The exact cause of melanoma is not clear but exposure to sunlight, tanning beds; ultraviolet radiation etc. increases the risk of developing this cancer. Bad sunburns in children can develop up as skin cancer as much as 20 years later.  Having knowledge of the signs can help detect and treat before the cancer spreads.  It is important for everyone to schedule a visit with a Dermatologist at least once a year.  73,870 people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2015.  9,940 people will die from Melanoma.  Melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of skin cancer cases but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.  If caught early, it can be treated. Anyone can get melanoma.  It is very important to take time to examine the moles on your skin.  When checking your skin, you should look for the ABCDE’s of Melanoma.

 

A=Asymmetry-one half is different to the other half

B=Border-irregular or unevenly defined border

C=Color-color is varied from one area to the other; has shades of brown, tan or black, or is sometimes red, white, or blue.

D=Diameter-Melanomas are about 6 mm (about size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they could be smaller.

E=Evolving-A skin lesion or mole that appears different from the other or changing in size, shape or color.

It is important to know that there are different types of melanoma. Some can look like a bruise that will not heal and some can first look like a black or brown streak underneath a fingernail or toenail. Melanoma can occur anywhere in the body; particularly the face and scalp area. A Dermatologist should check your hairline area as well as it is also.

Some Symptoms of Melanoma

Early on, melanoma may not cause you any symptoms. But sometimes it may:

-Feel painful

-Bleed

-Itch

 

Tips that can help you prevent skin cancer:

-Do not burn

-Avoid tanning especially UV tanning beds

-Cover up with clothing and using UV blocking sunglasses helps

-Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher

-Seek the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm

– Examine your skin every month from head to toe

-Visit your physician yearly for a professional skin exam

 

Treatment for Melanoma

Once Melanoma has been diagnosed, you and your physician will discuss treatment options. Depending on each case you might see different doctors such as a dermatologist, radiation oncologist or surgical oncologist.  Depending on which stage you are at, treatment might include chemotherapy, surgery, Immunotherapy, Radiation Therapy, or targeted therapy.  If caught early on, Melanoma can be treated effectively with surgery.

Hair loss is a dreaded factor when it comes to Chemotherapy. Hair loss can not only affect your scalp but also eyebrows, body and eyelashes. This happens because Chemotherapy zeroes in on rapidly dividing cells including normal cells and cancer such as hair cells. You can ask your doctor if the drug you’re taking will promote hair loss.

 

Did you know?

-One in fifty men and women will be diagnosed with Melanoma during their life time

-Every year there are new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer combined

-One person dies of Melanoma every hour

-The majority of mutations found in Melanoma are caused by ultraviolet radiation

-Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for adults ages 25-29 and the second most common for young people ages 15-29

-Ultraviolet Radiation is a proven human carcinogen

-More people develop skin cancer due to tanning than developing lung cancer due to smoking