Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer although it is not as common as other forms such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell but it is still the leading cause of death from skin disease. Because it is Melanoma Awareness it’s time to learn what it is, what it looks like and how to check for symptoms. The saying goes “knowledge is power” and that is certainly the case with melanoma!
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin condition that occurs when melanocytes, the cells that produce a pigment called melanin, are changed.
Melanoma can appear on the skin, as a new mole, or even as a mole you have had all your life.
4 Major Types:
While the chances of developing melanoma is more & more common as we age, it is becoming more frequently seen in younger people as well. It is so important to be aware of your risk and be vigilant with sun protection and skin checkups!
You’re More at Risk If:
If you can answer yes to any of these questions you are more at risk for melanoma…
- Do you have a fair skin type, light eyes (blue/green), and light hair (blonde, strawberry blonde-red)?
- Have you ever blistered from a sunburn (especially 1 or more in your childhood)?
- Have you used a tanning bed?
- Do you live in a hot/sunny area?
- Do you live at a high altitude?
- Do you spend a lot of time in the direct/heavy sunlight (maybe due to a job or hobby)?
Checking For Symptoms:
The sooner skin cancer is caught, the greater the potential for a successful treatment. Here are a few questions to ask yourself about a mole or growth you may have:
- Has the color of your growth/mole/skin area changed at all?
- Does one area look like a different shade then another?
- Is the spot larger than 6mm (the size of a pea) in diameter?
- Does one half of a skin area look different from the other half?
- Are the edges of the mole/growth/skin are irregular?
- Has the spot changed AT ALL in appearance?
If you can answer yes to any of the questions above your spot MAY be irregular. You should check your skin once a month as recommended, and be sure to call your doctor if you notice any changes in size, color, or appearance with your spots, moles, or growths. Also, have a body scan at least once a year with a dermatologist. According to the American Cancer Society people older than 40 should have their skin examined by a professional every year and 20 to 40 year olds should be examined every 3 years. Be vigilant with skin examinations and wear sunscreen every day and limit your sun exposure!