George Woodbury MD 1/4/2023
Skin cancer takes the lives of upwards of 20,000 Americans on an annual basis. That is one person every 24 minutes. The good news is that lives can be saved with early detection and treatment. The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. So, let us look at some melanoma tips in Memphis, TN, that dermatologists like me use to diagnose and treat this type of skin cancer early.
First, to detect skin cancer, you’ve got to look for skin cancer. Dermatologists have long known that many lives are saved by a concerned family member who inspects their loved one, detects a changing growth or mole, and gets the patient to visit a doctor for a skin cancer screening. To spot suspicious growth early, you need to trust your spouse, partner, or other loved one to give you an inspection regularly. And remember, skin cancer can occur on any part of the body.
Years ago, dermatologists thought certain people were more “high risk” for skin cancer than others. This included blondes, redheads, those who freckle easily, or people who love the sun or have a history of severe sunburns. “Low-risk” people avoided the sun and tanning booths, wore sunscreen regularly, or tan easily. But with more research, we now realize that everyone is at risk of skin cancer. In fact, African Americans tend to be diagnosed much later, leading to a higher fatality rate! Below is an example of melanoma.
Be aware that skin cancer affects more than just senior citizens. The median age for the development of melanoma is just 52 years old! That means half of the cases occur in people younger than 52. So, don’t forget to inspect your kids! Data shows that several thousand people under 20 develop melanoma in the United States each year, including several hundred below the age of 12.
So, what do you watch for when you inspect for skin cancer? In the example above, the patient has a characteristic melanoma on his forehead. What features of growth or mole cause dermatologists to be more concerned about melanoma or other forms of skin cancer?
We look for what is called the A, B, C, D, and E warning signs, first described by Dr. Al Kopf and Dr. Daryl Rigel of New York University’s Department of Dermatology in the 1980s:
A Stands for Asymmetry: One Half of the Lesion Does Not Match the Other Half
B Stands for Border: A Jagged Border, Perhaps Like the Coast of Main, Rather Than of Florida
C Stands for Color Change: Different Hues of Brown or Black within the Lesion, or One Mole That’s a Darker Color Than the Person’s Other Moles
D Stands for an Increasing Diameter of the Lesion
E Stands for Evolving: If the Lesion Is Changing, It’s Best to Bring It to the Attention of a Dermatologist
When a suspicious mole or growth is found, almost all dermatologic surgeons will likely treat it the same way—they will generally perform a simple removal, or “excision,” of the lesion under local anesthetic. If the lesion turns out to be precancerous—such as a high-risk atypical mole—or full-fledged skin cancer, we will try to ensure that the lesion is entirely out by doing what is called a “re-excision.”
For more than 30 years, my dermatology practice has been helping patients find and treat various forms of skin cancer. If you are not in the area, you can find a dermatologist closer to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology Website.
For more helpful tips and photos of melanoma, please visit the Skin Cancer Foundation Website.
For more background on melanoma, we encourage you to check out a short movie on YouTube sponsored by my practice entitled: “Understanding the Melanoma Crisis: Scarlet’s Story.”
And remember: See spot? See spot change? See a dermatologist!