Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer the spreads quickly. Often caused by sun exposure, it can often be mistaken for a benign mole.
It is potentially life-threatening. Although getting the diagnosis can be scary, the condition is usually treatable if caught early on.
How do I know if I have melanoma?
The Warning Signs of Melanoma
Development of a New Spot
A new mole or sore can be suspicious. If you have noticed a new spot on your skin, you should have it checked out just to be safe.
Change in Appearance
Melanoma is known to evolve quickly. The most noticeable changes are often in size: if the mole is over a quarter inch in diameter, it may be indicative of melanoma. Also common are changes in shape and color. Melanoma is usually black or brown but can have shades of pink, red, or white, or even blue.
Itching or Tenderness
In some cases, your mole may begin to itch or even feel painful. This is often accompanied by scaling, oozing, or bleeding.
The ABCDE's of Melanoma
These key visual cues can help you monitor any moles or spots.
Genetics, Habits, & Age Can Make You More Likely to Develop Melanoma
Your risk for melanoma can be influenced by a broad spectrum of factors including:
- Ultraviolet light exposure
- Weakened immune system
Additionally, if you have previously had melanoma, you are more likely to develop the condition again.
Melanoma is Tied to Sun Exposure & Changes within Your Genes
While other skin cancers are associated with long-term exposure to sunlight, melanoma is caused by brief but intense exposure to UVA and UVB rays.
Changes in Your Genes
The DNA within the cells that make up a mole control whether it becomes cancerous. Mutations within those genes, often occurring due to damage from sun exposure, can cause the cells to malfunction, leading to melanoma.
Diagnosis Does Not Mean a Death Sentence
An estimated 178,560 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018. However, for patients in the U.S. who receive an early diagnosis, the estimated five-year survival rate is about 99 percent.
A Visual Exam & Biopsy Allow the Doctor to Closely Evaluate the Spot
Melanoma can be diagnosed by your doctor, who will usually perform a visual exam first. If they see something they think requires a closer evaluation, they will perform a biopsy, which is the removal of some or all of the tissue from the area. They will then evaluate the tissue under a microscope to determine whether it is cancerous. Depending on the results, they can then recommend the best course of treatment.
Find Out If You Have Melanoma
If you have noticed a new or changing mole, do not hesitate to seek a professional diagnosis. Receiving early treatment can save your life. Schedule a consultation with a doctor today to undergo an exam and take the first steps toward receiving the care you need.