What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a very dangerous skin cancer that claims the life of one American EVERY HOUR. Each year about 178,000 Americans are diagnosed with this deadly skin cancer.
Why is melanoma so dangerous?
Melanoma is deadly because it can travel from your skin to other organs if left untreated. It can go to your lymph nodes, lungs, liver, brain among other organs. When it does travel it becomes very deadly and it becomes incredibly difficult to treat. There is not a good cure for melanoma that has metastasized.
Am I at risk?
Melanoma is largely caused by exposure to ultraviolet light and sunburns, although it does also have a genetic component. Light-skinned individuals with blond or red hair and freckling are more susceptible. Also those with many nevi are more likely to develop melanoma. Tanning beds and sun-exposure are the leading causes especially exposure before age 35. Sunburns, especially blistering sunburns are incredibly bad and increase the risk greatly. For example, one blistering sunburn at a young age doubles the risk of melanoma. Young people who use tanning beds are eight times more likely to develop melanoma.
How can I avoid getting melanoma?
First of all, you must avoiding tanning beds and sunburns. The myth of a tan preventing sunburns has now been debunked. There is no safe tan. Make sure to protect young ones from the sun because early sun damage gives them a higher risk of cancer even as adults. Please make sure to avoid the midday sun (10 AM - 2 PM), wear sun protective clothing, and applying sunscreen. I recommend an SPF of 30 or higher on a daily basis, especially areas that are most affected by the sun such as your nose, ears, face, neck and hands. If you are going to be outside for an extended period of time then I recommend an SPF of at least 50. Most people forget to reapply which is why they get burned (quite literally). You must reapply every 1-2 hours depending on your exposure to water or sweat (swimming or heavy activity).
How can I get checked?
People with suspicious lesions, a family or personal history of melanoma, have a lot of moles, or have been exposed to a lot of sun should have a full skin examination performed by their dermatologist. I have seen many skin cancers and melanomas go undiagnosed because the patient thought it was a benign spot or was informed by their regular doctor that the lesion is ok only to find out later that it was cancerous. If you are suspicious then better to get checked- better safe than sorry.
I have been diagnosed with Melanoma, now what?
The diagnosis of melanoma can be devastating. Once diagnosed, I will go over your diagnosis with you in detail and the treatment options. Not all melanomas are treated the same. The treatment depends on the type of melanoma and how deep it has invaded. Early melanomas can be treated by surgery with good cure rates, however more advanced melanomas do not respond as well and treatment may be difficult. That is why the best cure is early detection!