What is it?
Melanoma is a type of a skin cancer. When found early and treated, melanoma can be cured. If allowed to grow and left untreated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body and as a result melanoma can be a deadly form of skin cancer. Your doctor may take a biopsy of a suspicious mole or growth to determine if it is melanoma.
Who gets it?
Anyone can get melanoma but research has shown indoor tanning increases a person’s melanoma risk by 75%. Some people have a higher risk of getting melanoma. These people have the following traits/risk factors:
- Are fair skinned
- Have sun-sensitive skin
- Have red hair
- Have over 50 moles, large moles or unusual-looking moles
- Have a weakened immune system
- Melanoma runs in the family
- Have spent a lot of time in the sun
The following treatments may be given to treat melanoma
- Excision: doctor will numb the skin and surgically cut out the melanoma and some of the normal-looking skin around the melanoma.
- Mohs surgery: surgeon will cut out the tumor and a very small amount of normal-looking skin surrounding the tumor. While the patient waits, the Mohs surgeon uses a microscope to look at what was removed to look for cancer cells. The surgeon will continue to remove a very small amount of skin until the surgeon no longer sees cancer cells under the microscope.
If the melanoma gets deeper into the skin or spreads, a patient may need more treatment. Other treatments include:
- Lymphadenectomy: surgery to remove lymph nodes
- Immunotherapy: treatment that helps the patient’s immune system fight cancer
- Chemotherapy: Medicine that kills the cancer cells.
- Radiation therapy: X-rays that kill the cancer cells.
- If you use tanning beds, stop immediately!
- If you spend time outdoors, do it when the sun is less intense (before 10am or after 4pm)
- Wear sunscreen everyday that is SPF 30 or higher and with “broad spectrum” protection (blocks against UVA and UVB rays)
- Wear sunglasses that have UV protection
- Get skin cancer screening by your dermatologist
- Check your skin for signs of cancer
- Know the ABCDE’s of melanoma
- – Asymmetry
- – Border
- – Color
- – Diameter
- – Evolving
Learn more at the American Academy of Dermatology: AAD Melanoma.