Melanoma is an increasingly common form of skin cancer that can be deadly if not treated properly. Melanoma is a cancer that affects the pigment-producing cells in the skin. These cells also produce benign tumors, known as moles. When a melanoma develops on your skin it may look similar to a normal mole. This can make it difficult to know whether a mole is cancerous or harmless. Here are some of the best ways to prevent melanoma and ways to spot melanoma in its early stages.
Melanoma is most often caused by exposure to the sun. If you often go out into sunny weather without protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays you are at increased risk of developing melanoma. Frequent, blistering sunburns as a child can also increase your chances of getting melanoma. And finally the use of tanning beds increases your risk of developing melanoma by over 75%. Although a family history of melanoma may increase your risk somewhat, the majority of cases of melanoma are due to these factors.
While there is no way to guarantee that you will never get melanoma there are several steps you can take to protect your skin:
- Wear broad-spectrum, waterproof sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you are outside.
- Wear clothing that shields your skin from the sun.
- Never use tanning beds.
Unfortunately even total avoidance of sun exposure cannot prevent melanoma. Although melanoma most frequently develops on areas of your skin that are prone to sunburns this kind of cancer can appear on any area of your body. It’s crucial to know how to identify a cancerous mole in its early stages before it becomes more dangerous.
The warning signs of melanoma can be detected by performing a simple self-exam. To easily remember the characteristics of a potential melanoma, remember what we call the ‘ABCDEs’.
- A is for a asymmetry. If a mole looks different on one side than another, it may be cancerous.
- B means that the border of cancerous moles often looks irregular or scalloped.
- C is for color. Cancerous moles are often darker in color than benign moles, or have multiple colors.
- D stands for a diameter more than 6 millimeters – larger than a pencil eraser.
- E means that it is evolving. If a mole is changing in shape, size, color, or is bleeding or itching, it is exhibiting irregular behavior.
If any of these qualities apply to your mole, you should have it evaluated by a professional as soon as possible.
Melanoma is becoming much more widespread. Make sure that you and your loved ones know how to keep yourselves safe from this skin cancer. Prevention and early detection of cancerous moles can save lives. If you have a mole that looks suspicious, please request an appointment or call us at 651-209-1600.
We offer same day and next day appointments, so do not wait to meet with one of our dermatologists about a potential melanoma on your skin.