May is Melanoma Awareness Month. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that starts as pigment cells which mutate into cancerous growths. These usually present themselves as odd looking moles, or even clear dots on the skin. While rarer than basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer, melanoma is more likely to metastasize, or spread. Coupled with its tendency to look normal, melanoma kills almost 10,000 people a year making it the deadliest of all skin cancers. This number refers to deaths known to be linked to melanoma. In melanoma’s late stages, the melanoma may have disappeared after spreading to different areas of the body including organs and the brain. When factoring that in the number could be much higher.
When it comes to recognizing melanoma early, keeping in mind the “ABCDE’s” of melanoma can help! Look over your body and find moles that meet one of the following criteria:
Asymmetry – The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other half.
Border – Mole is irregular with an edge that is ragged, notched, or blurred. The pigment may also be spreading.
Color – Mole has different shades of black, brown, or tan. Areas may also be white, gray, red, pink or blue. Melanoma can also appear clear.
Diameter – The size of the mole has changed. Larger than size of a pea (larger than 6mm or ¼ inch).
Evolving – The mole is changing. This is the most important factor. Moles do not change; melanoma does.
In general, if your mole has changed or looks very irregular, immediately schedule an appointment with a dermatologist and make sure to mention you believe it meets the melanoma criteria. Melanoma can affect all ages and is especially common in women. Melanoma is survivable if caught early.
For more information on melanoma or if you would like to schedule a skin check, you can contact Western Maryland Dermatology at 301-777-7900 or visit us online at www.wmderma.com where you can chat with one of our reservation specialists.