What to Know About Melanoma

What to Know About Melanoma May 10, 2022 / by Complete Family Dermatology Team

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Have you ever heard of melanoma? Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It can be treated successfully if treated early, but if not, it can be fatal. This is why it is so important to keep an eye out for changes in your skin. Here's what you need to know about melanoma.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in melanocytes, which are the cells that make melanin and gives your skin color. Once it starts, it continues as an uncontrolled growth of cells. This makes it much more likely to spread compared to other types of skin cancer.

Who is Likely to Get Melanoma?

Anyone can get melanoma, but there are a few factors that put others at a higher risk of developing it. Factors that may increase your risk include:
  • exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds
  • a fair complexion
  • a history of sunburns
  • a family history of melanoma
  • a large number of moles on your skin
  • a weakened immune system
  • living close to the equator or at a higher elevation

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

Melanoma may appear as its own unusual growth or develop within an already existing mole. It can occur on any part of the body but is most commonly found on the chest, back, legs, head, and neck. With this in mind, melanoma can appear differently for everyone. The general characteristics used to identify skin cancer can be found through the ABCDEs:
  • A is for asymmetry. Does your mole look irregularly shaped?
  • B is for border. Is the edge of your mole ragged, blurred, or uneven?
  • C is for color. Are there multiple colors in your mole and is the color distribution uneven?
  • D is for diameter. Is your mole larger than 1/4 inch, about the size of a pencil eraser?
  • E is for evolving. Is your mole changing in size, shape, or color?
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible.

How is Melanoma Treated?

If melanoma is detected early, it is highly treatable. In its earlier stages, it is usually treated with surgery. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, "the average five-year survival rate for individuals whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%. The five-year survival rates for melanoma with regional and distant spread are 66% and 27%, respectively."It is important to remember that melanoma is not just skin cancer. In later stages, it can spread to other parts of the body, including the liver, lungs, and brain. If the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, radiation therapy or chemotherapy may also be necessary. Early detection and treatment are key in preventing melanoma from becoming fatal.

How to Prevent Melanoma?

The good news about melanoma and other skin cancers is that it's preventable. You can do this by practicing sun safety. This includes using sunscreen, wearing a hat and sunglasses, avoiding the sun during peak hours, staying out of tanning beds, and becoming familiar with your skin. It is important to perform regular skin self-exams to look for any changes in your skin.  Take note of any new growths or changes in moles, freckles, bumps, and birthmarks. Once again, if you notice any changes, see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible.

Closing Thoughts

If you or someone you know has seen changes in your skin, please make a total body skin exam appointment at Complete Family Dermatology. Our team of Geoff Basler MD, Brent Behrens PA-C, and Brian Herbin PA-C is highly skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of melanoma and all other types of skin cancer. For more information, please give us a call at 402-423-1111.Please Note: Melanoma is a serious disease, and you should consult a doctor if you have any concerns about melanoma or any other type of skin cancer. This content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.

References

Melanoma, American Academy of Dermatology Association.Melanoma, Mayo Clinic. 

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