Riverchase Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery –
Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, develops in the cells that produce melanin — the pigment that gives your skin its color. This deadly form of skin cancer develops in a mole or appears suddenly as a new dark spot on the skin. Every year, more than 8,500 Americans (nearly one person an hour) die from melanoma. Several risk factors significantly increase a person’s risk of developing melanoma.
Most people have between 10 and 40 moles. Many of these develop by age 40, although moles may change in appearance over time — some may even disappear with age. A change in mole appearance is often the first sign of melanoma. It is important to know where moles appear and what they look like.
When detected early and properly treated before it spreads, melanoma has a high cure rate. The A-B-C-D-E warning signs of melanoma help people detect change. Characteristics of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers:
• A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
• B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders — characteristics of melanoma.
• C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
• D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than about 1/4 inch.
• E is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding.
The exact cause of all melanoma isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Other factors, such as your genetic makeup, likely also play a role.
Factors that may increase your risk of melanoma include:
• Fair skin. Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin means you have less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you’re more likely to develop melanoma than is someone with a darker complexion. But melanoma can develop in people with darker complexions as well.
• A history of sunburn. One or more severe, blistering sunburns as a child or teenager can increase your risk of melanoma as an adult.
• Excessive ultraviolent (UV) light exposure. Exposure to UV radiation, which comes from the sun and from tanning beds, can increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
• Having many moles or unusual moles. Having more than 50 ordinary moles on your body indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Also, having an unusual type of mole increases the risk of melanoma.
• A family history of melanoma. If a close relative, such as a parent, child, or sibling has had melanoma you have a greater chance of developing it as well.
• Weakened immune system. People with weak immune systems have an increases risk of skin cancer. This includes people who have HIV/AIDS and those who have undergone organ transplants.
If you notice any skin changes that concern you, visit your family doctor or general practitioner right away. Depending on your situation and the outcome of any tests, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in skin diseases (dermatologist) or to a doctor who specializes in cancer treatment (oncologist).
With six convenient locations throughout Southwest Florida, the skilled providers and staff of Riverchase Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery are happy to answer any questions you may have about melanoma or other skin issues. Contact the office nearest you today if you are concerned about any changes you notice on your skin.
1-800-591-DERM | www.RiverchaseDermatology.com