20 Mar What you need to know about melanoma
By: Dr. Angela Casey
While melanoma accounts for a small 1 percent of skin cancers, it remains the cause of most skin cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, about 100,350 new melanomas will be diagnosed, and about 6,850 people are expected to die of melanoma in 2020.
Those statistics can be startling to many. Fortunately, the cure rate for melanoma is very high when detected and treated early. If you have been diagnosed or have a loved one that has recently been diagnosed, learning some straight-forward details on melanoma is a great place to start.
Below, we will give you an overview of the causes of skin cancer, the signs and symptoms of melanoma, and the treatment options for melanoma.
What is causing the skin cancer epidemic?
Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun and the use of UV tanning beds. However, with melanoma, there is also a genetic component, meaning the risks of developing melanoma are passed down from generation to generation within a family.
In addition to genetics and excessive UV exposure, these factors can increase your risk of melanoma:
- A weakened immune system due to a medical condition or medications.
- The more moles you have on your body, the higher your risk for melanoma.
- Melanoma occurs more frequently in people with fair skin.
- People who have already had melanoma or nonmelanoma skin cancers run a greater risk of developing the disease in the future.
What does melanoma look like?
Melanoma usually presents itself as a dark brown to black-colored spot. A large percentage of melanomas start as a mole (new or existing) and transition into melanoma, which can appear quickly over the course of a couple of months. Melanoma spots commonly appear on women’s legs and men’s trunks. However, they can arise from anywhere, even places not exposed to sunshine.
As mentioned above, early detection of melanoma is key to providing timely and effective treatment. The ABCDE’s of melanoma and the Ugly Duckling sign are great guidelines to help you detect melanoma. Examine your skin once a month to identify abnormal or changing skin spots, and when in doubt, visit your doctor.
If the doctor thinks the spot might be a melanoma, he/she will remove the spot through a skin biopsy and send it to a lab where it is examined under a microscope.
How is melanoma treated?
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with melanoma, your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you based on the stage of the melanoma. The earliest stage melanomas are stage 0 (melanoma in situ), and then range from stages I (1) through IV (4). The lower the number, the less the cancer has spread.
The standard treatment for melanoma is surgical incision. For more advanced melanomas, surgical incision and sampling of lymph nodes is recommended to determine if the melanoma has spread into the lymph nodes. Chemotherapies are often used for more aggressive forms. While Mohs surgery is a treatment option for other skin cancers, it is not commonly used to treat melanoma because it can be difficult to interpret melanoma.
Contact Center of Surgical Dermatology for a skin cancer treatment in Westerville, OH
When it comes to detecting and treating melanoma and other skin cancers, the board-certified dermatologists at the Center of Surgical Dermatology are here for you. Since 2007, our caring professional staff has provided patients with treatment they can trust in an environment second to none. Learn more about our state-of-the-art Dermatology Center before booking your appointment today.