Posts for tag: Melanoma
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Fortunately, it rarely develops without warning, and the number of fatalities caused by melanoma could be greatly reduced if people were aware of the early signs and took time to examine their skin. With early diagnosis and treatment, your chance of recovery from melanoma is very good.
What Causes Melanoma?
The main cause of melanoma is too much skin exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV rays from the sun and tanning booths can damage skin cells, causing the cells to grow abnormally. The best way to prevent melanoma is to reduce the amount of time you spend in the sun, wearing hats and protective clothing when possible and generously applying sunscreen.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including the soles of your feet or your fingernails. In women, melanoma is most often seen on the lower legs, and in men, it most commonly forms on the upper back.
Anyone can get melanoma, but people with the following traits are at a higher risk:
- Fair skin
- Excessive sun exposure during childhood
- Family history of melanoma
- More than 50 moles on the skin
- Several freckles
- Sun-sensitive skin that rarely tans or burns easily
Melanoma can appear suddenly as a new mole, or it can grow slowly, near or in an existing mole. The most common early signs of melanoma are:
- An open sore that repeatedly heals and re-opens
- A mole or growth that takes on an uneven shape, grows larger or changes in color or texture
- An existing mole that continues to bleed, itch, hurt, scab or fade
Because melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body, it is important to find melanoma as early as possible. The best way to detect changes in your moles and skin markings is by doing self-examinations regularly. If you find suspicious moles, have them checked by your dermatologist.
Visiting your dermatologist for a routine exam is also important. During this skin cancer "screening," your dermatologist will discuss your medical history and inspect your skin from head to toe, recording the location, size and color of any moles. Melanoma may be the most serious form of skin cancer, but it is also very curable when detected early.
Skin cancer is one the most common of all cancer types, which occurs when malignant cells are found in the outer layers of your skin. More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States. Although the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise, most cases could be prevented by limiting the skin's exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Skin cancers fall into two major categories: melanoma and non-melanoma.
- Basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal and most commonly appears after the age of 40 in the form of lesions on the head or neck area, which may increase in size or bleed easily.
- Squamous cell carcinoma generally develops in people over 50 with sun-damaged skin. This is the most common form of non-melanoma cancer. These growths appear as flat and red, becoming raised, scaly patches.
- Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer, often occurring on the back in men and the legs in women. Risk increases with age, and the average age of detection is between 45-50 years old. It usually appears as a dark flat or raised area on the skin, and is often irregular in shape. Left untreated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body.
First step: prevention
The good news is that with early detection and treatment, non-melanoma cancers can be cured in over 99% of the cases, and melanoma is readily detectable and usually curable if treated early.
To start protecting your skin, limit sun exposure by seeking shade and always wearing sunscreen, even during the winter months. When possible, wear hats and sunglasses to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays. UV exposure is one of the biggest contributors to skin cancer, which includes tanning booths. People with fair skin, several moles or freckles, or a family history of skin cancer are also at an increased risk for developing skin cancers.
Early detection and self-exams can save your life
Many types of skin cancer grow slowly, while some melanomas can appear very quickly. Detected in its early stages, skin cancer is very treatable. Use a mirror to examine unreachable parts of your body or ask a family member or friend to assist you. Check your moles regularly for any changes in appearance or sensitivity.
Skin cancer may be one of the most common types of cancer, but it is also one of the most preventable and curable. Take steps now to protect your skin, and visit your dermatologist for regular exams and to have any unusual findings checked.