Monday Medical: Melanoma needs a celebrity | SteamboatToday.com
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Monday Medical: Melanoma needs a celebrity

The warning signs of melanoma

Moles, spots and growths on the skin are often harmless — but not always. Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma and contact your doctor if you notice any of these warning signs.

• A — Asymmetry

• B — Border irregularity

• C — Color variations

• D — Diameter greater than 6 mm

• E — Evolving over time

Betty Ford brought breast cancer — and addiction — out of the closet. Katie Couric helped bring to light the importance of screening for colon cancer. Angelina Jolie became the poster child for BRAC mutations.

Melanoma needs a celebrity.

Many famous people have survived and many died of melanoma: John McCain (senator), George Washington (president), Cybill Shepherd (actress), Bob Marley (musician), Troy Aikman (NFL player) and Stuart Entwistle (pro surfer). Yet it remains a cause without a well-known face.



The warning signs of melanoma

Moles, spots and growths on the skin are often harmless — but not always. Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma and contact your doctor if you notice any of these warning signs.

• A — Asymmetry



• B — Border irregularity

• C — Color variations

• D — Diameter greater than 6 mm

• E — Evolving over time

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Unrepaired DNA damage to cells, usually the result of ultraviolet radiation, triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead to malignant tumors.

Melanomas arise in the pigment–producing cells, or melanocytes, in the skin. Approximately 135,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States annually, accounting for nearly 10,000 deaths.

Melanoma deserves more attention as one of the fastest growing and most deadly cancers, skewed toward younger ages. It is also the most preventable cancer.

If recognized and treated early, melanoma is almost always curable. Against the backdrop of harmless spots on our skin, it can be difficult to identify a suspicious site. It is important to know your own skin through regular self-exams so you are aware of new or changing spots and to be familiar with the warning signs for melanoma.

Risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing melanoma include fair skin, a family history of melanoma — particularly in first-degree relatives — and having numerous moles (more than 50). A history of severe or blistering sunburns in childhood, prior melanoma and use of tanning booths are also risk factors for the disease.

If you have risk factors, you should be examined annually by a physician. If you notice a new or changing spot or detect a spot with warning signs, you should see your physician. Early detection can save your life.

A successful ad campaign from Australia has been a champion for prevention of melanoma:

SLIP on sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible.

SLOP on SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum, water resistant sun screen. Liberally reapply every 2 hours when outside.

SLAP on a broad- brimmed hat.

SEEK shade.

SLIDE on sunglasses.

Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. Regard the sun as a nuclear reactor bombarding us daily with harmful ultraviolet radiation causing genetic mutations.

Don’t be a victim. Know your risk factors, perform self-exams monthly, practice prevention and see your physician.

Maybe you won’t need a celebrity to save your skin.

Maryann Wall, M.D., is board certified in Otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, and facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.


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