Maragh Dermatology, Surgery & Vein Institute – Ashburn
45155 Research Place
Ashburn, VA 20147
Maragh Dermatology, Surgery & Vein Institute – Warrenton
419 Holiday Court
Warrenton, VA 20186
Maragh Dermatology, Surgery & Vein Institute – Rockville
14995 Shady Grove Road
Rockville, MD 20850
What Is Melanoma and How Do I Know If I Have It?
What Is Melanoma and How
Do I Know If I Have It?
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
Although melanoma accounts for less than 5% of all cases of skin cancer, it is the leading cause of skin cancer deaths. The number of new cases of melanoma in the United States continues to increase every year. In 2009, it is estimated that over 60, 000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed and over 8,000 people will die from melanoma. The increase in the number of cases melanoma is attributed to increased use of tanning beds, lack of use of sunscreen and better means of detection.
Melanoma begins in the skin cells that produce pigment (melanocytes) which makes the skin tan. Melanoma can appear in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black and also red or white. It may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on your body to detect changes early. Any changing mole must be examined by your dermatologist. Early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage.
Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. Ultraviolet light exposure from tanning lamps and booths also increases the risk of melanoma.
Light-skinned individuals are at particularly high risk. A person has an increased chance of developing melanoma if a relative or close family member has had it. People who have a large number of moles or have a history of atypical moles are at increased risk for developing melanoma. Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily are at a particularly high risk for developing skin cancer.
Dark skin is not a guarantee against skin cancer. People with skin of color can develop melanoma. In dark-skinned people, melanoma tends to occur on the hands and feet including under the nails. In men, melanoma is found most often on the trunk (chest, back and abdomen). In women, melanoma occurs most often on the legs. The incidence of melanoma in young women under the age of 40 is rising at an alarming rate.
Know Your Abcdes
It is very important to develop a monthly routine to inspect your skin. When examining your skin, it is important to know if a growth, mole, sore, or skin discoloration is new or has begun to change. You should consult your dermatologist immediately if you notice any of the following changes
A – Asymmetry One half does not match the other half B – Borders Edges are notched or ragged C – Color Varied shades of tan, black, brown, blue, gray or red
D – Diameter Size that is greater than a pencil eraser
E – Evolving Any mole that is
changing in its appearance over time
Have your dermatologist examine your skin at least once a year, especially for adults with significant past sun exposure or a family history of skin cancer. If a skin biopsy reveals cancer, your dermatologist has several methods of medical and surgical treatment, depending upon the type of cancer, its location, and the needs of the individual.
Early detection is the surest way to a cure.