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Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer of melanocytes, the cells that produce dark protective pigment called melanin. Melanoma may affect anyone at any age and can occur anywhere on the body. Melanoma may spread (metastasize) to other organs, making it essential to treat this skin cancer early. Melanoma develops on the skin of approximately 53,600 Americans annually, with an estimated 7,400 dying from Melanoma every year.

The ABCD’s of Melanoma:

  • Asymmetry – One half does not match the other half.
  • Border Irregularity – The edges are notched or ragged.
  • Color – Varied shades of tan, black, or brown.
  • Diameter – Greater than six millimeters.

Leading Causes of Development

  • An increased risk of developing Melanoma is seen in people who have fair skin, light hair and eye color, a family history of Melanoma, or who have had Melanoma in the past.
  • Tumors can arise in or near a pre-existing mole or may appear without warning.
  • People with dark-skinned complexions can also develop Melanoma, especially on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails and in the mouth.
  • One in six Americans develop cancer at some point in life, 90% result from exposure to the sun.

Signs of Indication

  • Any irregularity in an existing or newly developed pigment skin lesion (asymmetry, uneven border, color variability, diameter of more than 6mm, elevation or bleeding).
  • Individual lesions may appear as a dark-brown, black, or multicolored growth with irregular borders that become crusted and bleed.

Treatment Options

After diagnosis, physician recommendation for therapy depends on location, extent of spread, and aggressiveness of the tumor. Your age and general health is also taken into consideration.

  • Surgical Excision
  • Mohs Micrographic Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation Therapy

How You Can Protect Yourself

Because chronic overexposure to sunlight is the leading case of Melanoma, sun avoidance is an important preventative measure to help reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

  • Limit skin exposure to UV rays by wearing sunglasses, broad-brimmed hats, and protective tightly woven clothing
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF-15 or higher) on all exposed skin including lips, even apply on cloudy days. Reapply sunscreen frequently.
  • Avoid tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices.

Inspect your entire body regularly for any skin changes, especially those already mentioned, and routinely visit your dermatologist for a skin examination. Detecting Melanoma early can be lifesaving because this cancer may be curable in its early stages. The body should be examined closely on a regular basis.