Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from the pigment-producing cells in the skin called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce melanin, which gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes. Melanoma is considered the deadliest form of skin cancer, but early detection and treatment can significantly improve the chances of survival.
Risk Factors for Melanoma can occur in anyone, but some factors increase the risk of developing the disease. These include:
- Fair skin, light hair, and blue or green eyes
- A history of sunburns or excessive sun exposure
- A family history of melanoma
- A weakened immune system
- Having many moles or atypical moles on the skin
- Previous diagnosis of skin cancer
Symptoms of Melanoma can appear as a new mole or a change in an existing mole. It can also develop in areas of the skin that have never been exposed to the sun. The ABCDE rule is a helpful guide for recognizing melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry: one half of the mole looks different from the other half.
- B is for border irregularity: the edges of the mole are ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for color: the mole has different colors or shades of brown, black, or tan.
- D is for diameter: the mole is larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser).
- E is for evolving: the mole is changing in size, shape, color, or elevation.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Melanoma
If you notice any changes in your skin, such as a new or changing mole, you must see a board-certified dermatologist or healthcare provider as soon as possible. They will perform a skin exam and may recommend a biopsy, which involves removing a small mole sample for lab testing.
If the biopsy confirms a diagnosis of melanoma, further testing may be needed to determine the cancer stage and the best treatment plan. Melanoma treatment options may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Treatment choice depends on the cancer stage, the melanoma’s location and size, and the patient’s overall health.
Prevention of Melanoma
Protecting your skin from the sun is the best way to prevent melanoma. This includes wearing protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats, staying in the shade when possible, and using broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. It’s also important to avoid tanning beds, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.
In addition to sun protection, regular skin self-exams and annual skin exams with a dermatologist can help detect melanoma early when it is most treatable.
When should I see a doctor?
A doctor with specialized training in the diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of skin cancer can best assess the risk of melanoma and provide personalized treatment options. A dermatologist can also help you understand your risk factors, perform skin cancer screenings, and discuss ways to reduce any risks. Your dermatologist may refer you to other medical specialists if further treatments are necessary. It is essential to seek medical attention immediately if you notice unusual changes in your skin. If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other body parts and become more challenging to treat. Your doctor may also recommend lifestyle modifications such as avoiding exposure to UV rays from the sun and tanning beds, wearing protective clothing, and using sunscreen regularly.
In conclusion, melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that can be deadly if not detected and treated early. Knowing the risk factors, symptoms, and prevention strategies can help protect your skin and detect melanoma early. If you have any concerns about your skin, be sure to see a dermatologist or healthcare provider.
Please ask your family doctor for a referral to one of our experienced dermatologists to perform a full skin check for you. If you need to Dermatologist in Barrie, please call: