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Melanoma: Causes, Signs, and Prevention

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes, the cells that give your skin its color. Melanoma can develop in any part of the body. Typically it forms on the most common areas of sun exposure such as arms, legs, and face, but it can also form in your eyes or inside your body, such as in your nose or throat.



Any exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma, but you can lower your chances by limiting your exposure to UV rays. Melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, only 1% of all skin cancers are diagnosed as melanoma. Though a rare form of skin cancer, it is imperative to verify with a board-certified dermatologist for a yearly mole check, as prevention is key in the detection of melanoma.


Diagnosis ( Stages):


Melanoma is identified through pathology, after a biopsy or shave lesion of skin is performed. After the preliminary diagnosis is made, a doctor will determine how advanced the cancer is, this is called “Staging.”

The stage of melanoma is determined, according to the American Cancer Society, through pathology and using the TNM system. TNM stands for Tumor, Nodes, and Metastasis. Tumor depthness is determined using the Breslow Measurement, to verify how deep the tumor is. Melanomas with less than 1 mm depth, tend to not spread. Nodes is a signifier for lymph nodes. Here, doctors determine if any melanoma is present in the lymph nodes to determine staging.


Metastasis is the last identifier for staging. It determines if the melanoma has developed in other parts of the body such as nearby organs, bones, brain, or the lungs.


Melanoma is diagnosed within stages 0-4. The earlier stage melanoma is, the better the outlook. Stage 0 (melanoma in situ) is an extremely early stage of melanoma that has not yet grown through the top layers of skin, and has not gone beyond the epidermal layer. Stage I melanomas have grown through the epidermis but have not reached any deeper layers of skin (the dermis). The higher stages, such as stage III and IV, are more likely to metastasize to regional lymph nodes or distant organs. Stage three (III) is split into four parts depending on severity and outlook (IIIA-IIID).


Treatment for melanoma can vary, depending on the severity of your condition. Treatment options may include surgery to remove a tumor, or treatment with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. For treatment, a patient must seek treatment with an oncologist.





At home detection:


If you have a concern about any skin spots at home, follow the ABCDE structure for a mole check. Image provided from the American Association of Dermatology to the left.






Prevention:


Prevention is key! Our dermatologists believe that it is beneficial to incorporate sunscreen into our daily routine. Any person with 5 or more sunburns in their life has a doubled risk of developing melanoma, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. For this reason, aside from encouraging yearly visits to your dermatologists, we encourage our readers to do their best to protect their skin against sun damage. This includes wearing long sleeves, wearing hats, using an umbrella, and wearing sunscreen in very sunny climates. We know that at times it is difficult to incorporate all of these tactics at once, which is why we express to our readers to at least incorporate SPF.





Sunscreen provides the most complete protection when applied properly. Before beginning to apply your sunscreen, it is important to know the sun protection factor (SPF) of the product you are using.


To apply and properly use your sunscreen, follow these steps:




Step 1 - Apply any SPF 30 or above to exposed areas at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.


Step 2 - Apply product to skin, massage into skin for at least 30 seconds, until product is no longer visible and properly on the skin


Step 3 - If you are in the sun for an extended period of time, reapply every hour or two hours for best protection.


Step 4- If you are swimming at the beach, reapply sunscreen after exiting and use a “water-resistant” SPF.


We hope this information was helpful. Ensure to schedule a visit with your board-certified dermatologist for a mole check. Follow proper steps for sun protection. And enjoy the start of the summer!








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-Dr. Del Campo



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