Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer and is responsible for the majority of skin cancer related deaths. Melanoma may develop from an existing mole or appear as a new growth on normal skin.
It can be difficult to differentiate a melanoma from a healthy mole, but there are some guidelines that you can follow. Unlike healthy moles, melanomas tend to be asymmetric, have irregular borders, have multiple colors, have a diameter greater than a pencil eraser and change (evolve) over time. If you notice a growth with any of these characteristics you should see a board certified dermatologist for a check.
How can I get melanoma?
Melanoma may arise due to a wide variety of factors.
- Sun Exposure: Excessive sun or tanning bed exposure and blistering sunburns increase your risk of melanoma.
- Genes: If people in your family have had skin cancer, you are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer yourself.
- Your Appearance: Those with fair skin, blonde or red hair, and lighter eyes are more susceptible to melanoma.
- Your Personal History: Someone who has already had one skin cancer is at a higher risk for developing additional skin cancers, including melanoma.
- Many Moles: The more moles a person has, the higher their risk of melanoma.
How can you prevent melanoma?
- Skin Checks: Going in to see a board certified dermatologist at least once per year for a skin exam can lead to early detection of a melanoma. The earlier the melanoma is found, the more likely treatment will be successful. Also, performing monthly skin checks on yourself will help you identify cancers as soon as possible.
- Sun Protection: Wearing sunscreen and sun-protective clothing will decrease your exposure to ultraviolet radiation and the chances of developing skin cancer.
- No Tanning Beds: Don’t use tanning beds! These have the same effects on your skin as direct sun exposure does and harm your skin equally as much.