Spotting Skin Cancer&Melanoma Early
Skin cancer – particularly the melanoma type of skin cancer – takes one American life every fifty-four minutes. But we know what causes it (Ultraviolet light), what it looks like, and it can be effectively treated if caught early.
As a Board-certified Dermatologist for over 25 years, at Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates (www.Rheumderm.com), Cordova TN, let me share with you some important features of skin cancer, so you can help spot it early, which could save lives.
The photos above show a melanoma on this man's forehead. It can be treated by a minor outpaitent removal under local anesthetic if caughter early. This treatment could save his life.
The above photo shows a classic melanoma - with asymmetry, an irregular border, different colors, and the patient would probably report that the diameter was enlarging.
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer, and melanoma, from most to least frequent. Melanoma is the most dangerous, and it can be detected by looking for the A, B, C, D, E features of melanoma, first identified by Dr. Daryl Rigel and Dr. Al Kopf of New York University:
A stands for asymmetry: one half doesn’t match the other half.
B stands for an irregular border, perhaps jagged like the coast of Maine, rather than smooth, like the coast of Florida.
C stands for a color that’s dark, or changing, or our of step with the person’s other moles. Or different shades of brown, black, or gray within the lesion.
D stands for a diameter or distance across the moles that’s enlarging, particularly if it gets larger than the head of a number 2 eraser.
E stands for an evolving or changing lesion.
Notice the different shades of brown within the melanoma above. This is a tell-tale sign of a growth that needs to come to the attention of a Dermatologist without delay.
Who’s at risk of skin cancer? The most high risk people for development of skin cancer are those who freckle or blister in the sun, those with red hair and blue eyes, and those with a history of one or move blistering sunburns when young, or those who like to play in or work in the sun. But everyone is at risk of skin cancer, from the fair-complected to the darker African- and Asian-descended peoples of the world. Remember that Bob Marley died of melanoma on his foot that developed when he was in his early 30’s. Everyone needs to watch out.
If you spot a growth or mole that has some of these A, B, C, D, E warning signs, consider bringing that family member to the attention of a Board-certified Dermatologist. Don’t wait until the lesion starts bleeding or scabbing, because skin cancer is much more easily treated if it’s caught early. Don’t be afraid. If a mole is found by the lab to be a melanoma, it’s more likely to be an early melanoma, and very treatable by a minor excision done in the office, out-patient.
For more on this topic of skin cancer, check out a movie that my practice sponsored for Youtube: ‘Understanding the Melanoma Crisis: Scarlet’s Story.” It tells the story of Scarlet, a 26-year-old who was diagnosed with melanoma while pregnant. Check it out.
My own Dermatology practice since 1993 is with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, in Cordova TN, but there are over 12,700 Dermatologists in the United States. You can find one of us close to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology’s ‘Find a Dermatologist’ tab, at AAD.org. Just plug in your zip code, and voila, you’ll have a list near you. So go on a “mole patrol” of your family, at least once a month. It might just save a life!
George Woodbury Jr. M.D.
Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates
8143 Walnut Grove Road
Cordova, TN 38018