Melanoma: Learn Your ABC's of Skin Health
What is Melanoma?
- Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, which are the pigment producing cells of the skin.
- It most commonly occurs in the skin, however, may also be found in the eyes, ears, GI tract, Central Nervous System and in the oral and genital mucous membranes.
- Melanoma is the most common cancer in women aged 25-29 years and is second only to breast cancer in women aged 30-34 years.
- This cancer is more likely to occur on areas that are less often exposed and more frequently burned, such as the backs of men and the legs of women.
- It can be fatal if it is neglected, therefore, early detection and prompt removal of Melanoma can save a life.
What are the risk factors?
- If you are older than 20 years of age, especially if you are over 60.
- Fair complexion, inability to tan, and a history of sunburns.
- Numerous moles, changing moles, or a history of atypical moles.
- A personal or family history of Melanoma (first-degree relative).
- A personal or family history of Basal cell or Squamous Cell Carcinoma (other common skin cancers).
Where to Look
- White women: Upper back and lower legs, arms, head, and neck.
- White men: Upper back, chest, abdomen, arms, head and neck.
- Melanoma is rare in people with darker skin tones. It may occur on the palms, soles, or in the nail beds.
Warning Signs of Melanoma
- New, changing, or unusual moles (Most moles appear by age 30, but adults can develop new ones throughout adulthood).
- Moles that become symptomatic (itching, burning, painful).
- An initial slow horizontal growth phase (The mole appears to spread wider on the skin’s surface). If untreated, this will be followed by a vertical growth phase which indicates invasive disease and potential metastasis.
- Prognosis is based on the thickness of the tumor.
Perform a Monthly Self Skin Examination
- Check yourself on a monthly basis.
- Report any lesion that is red, scaling, scabbing, bleeding, and/or non-healing, especially if it lasts longer than one month.
- Wear of sunscreen SPF 30+ to all exposed areas of skin each day. Re-apply every 90-120 minutes when outside. Wear hats, sunglasses, etc.
- Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma detection.
ABCDEs of melanoma detection
“A” is for Asymmetry- A mole in which one half does not match the other.
“B” is for irregular Border- A mole with a scalloped or poorly defined border.
“C” is for varied Color - A mole that consists of multiple shades of black, brown, white, red, and/or blue.
“D” is for Diameter - A mole that has a diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser.
“E” is for Evolution - A mole whose size, shape, or color changes over time