Usually my posts focus on light topics, but this is a heavy one. These past couple months I have diagnosed several melanoma skin cancers, with about half of them in young women. I hate having to call someone and tell them they have a melanoma. Even if it is an early melanoma, which has a good prognosis, telling someone they have a cancer that can kill them is hard.
Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer but is responsible for nearly all skin cancer deaths. The overall risk for melanoma is low -- about 1 in 40 among Caucasians -- but it is one of the most common cancers in young adults.
What does melanoma look like?
Melanoma usually presents as a new or changing mole. The mole can be a variety of different colors: brown, black, pink, red, blue, grey- or a combination. A melanoma can develop from a mole you have had for many years. An easy way to remember possible features of a cancerous mole: the ABCDEs of Melanoma.
Know Your ABCDEs
A: Asymmetric. One side of the mole looks different than the other
B: Border. The border is jagged and not smooth.
C: Color. Shows more than one color or a change in color.
D: Diameter. Typically larger than 6mm, or the size of a pencil head eraser.
E: Evolving. The mole continues to change.
How to Prevent Melanoma
I recommend looking at your moles every 2-3 months to ensure there are none that look suspicious.
If you have risk factors for skin cancer or melanoma such as tanning bed exposure, history of severe sunburns, fair skin and light eyes, a high number of moles or a family history of melanoma, it is advisable to have a baseline skin exam to determine your individual risk.
So there is my public service announcement. I promise my next post won’t be so heavy.
And don’t forget wearing (and reapplying) sunscreen.