Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.
It arises from the pigment making cells of the skin known as melanocytes. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, since it can spread to lymph nodes and other organs if not detected and treated early (at an asymptomatic stage).
- This is why we strongly encourage EVERYONE to get a skin check.
- If you wait till a mole or nevus is symptomatic, this can result in a late diagnosis and a poorer outcome.
If caught early, melanoma is very treatable. Melanomas can arise out of existing moles that change or start as a new spot entirely (de novo).
The incidence of melanoma has risen over 200% since the 1970s, and it is likely due to the popularity of tanning beds in addition to the significant sun exposure people see over a lifetime.
The vast majority of melanomas are related to sun exposure (over 80%).
There are about 75,000-80,000 new cases of melanoma diagnosed each year in the United States, and approximately 15,000 people will die from the disease (or about 1 person per hour).
Thus, even though melanoma only represents about 1% of all the skin cancers diagnosed in this country (BCC and SCC are far more common), it is the main cause of mortality among cases of skin cancer.
- A person’s risk of melanoma more than doubles if he/she has had 5 blistering sunburns in their lifetime.
- Regular use of sunscreen can decrease the risk of melanoma by over 50%.
- People who first use a tanning bed before the age of 35 increase their lifetime risk of melanoma by 75%, and more people will develop skin cancer from tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.
- 25% of all cases of melanoma occur in people under the age of 45, and it is now the main cause of cancer in women in their 20s.
At WNY Derm, we believe that early detection of melanoma saves lives, so we strongly encourage you to call to schedule your skin check today!
The following pneumonic is a simple way to remember what to look for when examining moles:
- Asymmetry – look for irregularly shaped moles. Lesions that cannot be split in half evenly should be considered suspicious.
- Border irregularity – look for sharp, jagged, or notched borders
- Color – look for uneven color throughout a mole, multiple colors within the same mole, or moles that look much darker than others
- Diameter – look for moles that are increasing in size or moles that are out of proportion in size compared to the others
- Evolution – when something seems odd about a mole, but doesn’t necessarily follow the other guidelines listed