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

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