Four Key Melanoma Facts that Could Save Your Life-Memphis Dermatologist
Cordova Dermatologist George Woodbury Jr, 04/03/2023
Skin Cancer including Melanoma takes the lives of upwards of 20,000 Americans every year. That’s about one person every 26 minutes. The good news is that early detection leads to early treatment. Let’s take a look at the Four Key Melanoma Facts that Dermatologists like myself use to help educate our patients, potentially saving lives through better awareness of Skin Cancer.
First, you’ve got to look for Skin Cancer to detect Skin Cancer. Dermatologists like myself have long known that many Melanomas are first spotted by a concerned family member who inspects loved ones, detecting a changing growth or mole and getting the patient to the prompt attention of a Dermatologist. So to spot a suspicious growth early, you do need to get your family members pretty much completely undressed, at least once a month, for a home inspection, because (critical fact #1) skin cancer can occur on all parts of the body: the most common location for Melanoma in women is the upper leg, and in men it’s the back, but significant lesions can really occur on any part of the body. So a Skin Cancer Screening is a valuable way of getting thoroughly inspected for Skin Cancer.
Years ago, we Dermatologists taught that certain people being “high risk” for skin cancer: redheads, blonds, those who freckle easily, or those who love the sun or who have a history of severe sunburns. “Low risk” people were those who routinely wear sunscreen, avoid the sun and tanning salon bulbs, or who tan easily. (Critical fact #2) Really everyone’s at risk of skin cancer. Many Skin Cancers occur in brunettes of in people who tan rather than burn. In fact, African-Americans and Latinos tend to be diagnosed much later, leading to a higher fatality rate. So everyone could benefit from a Skin Cancer Screening at least once a month at home, and at least once a year with a Dermatologist!
Critical Fact #3: Be aware that Skin Cancer affects more than just senior citizens. In fact, the median age for development of Melanoma is 52 years old. That means that half of the people developing Melanoma are younger than 52. The youngest patient whom I diagnosed with Melanoma in my own Memphis Dermatology practice over the last 31 years was a fifth grader: 10 years old! So don’t forget to inspect your kids. Data shows that several thousand people under the age of 20 develop Melanoma in the U.S.
each year, including several hundred below the age of 12.
The lesion below is a classic Melanoma.
Critical Fact #4: Know the A, B, C, D, E warning signs for Skin Cancer: rules of thumb for recognizing significant lesions or growths:
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 Maine, 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.
We know what action to take for suspicious moles or growths: if caught early, generally a simple removal, or “excision” of the lesion under local anesthetic is curative. If the lesion turns out to be a precancerous lesion – such as a high-risk atypical mole – or a full-fledged skin cancer – Dermatologic Surgeons like myself often try to ensure that the lesion is completely out – by doing what’s called a “reexcision.”
I have practiced as a Memphis Dermatologist these last 31 years is with Rheumatology and Dermatology Associates, Cordova, TN (1-901-753-0168; wwwRheumderm.com). You can find a Dermatologist closer to you by going to the American Academy of Dermatology web site, AAD.org, then simply plugging your zip code into the “Find a Dermatologist” tab.
Below is a photo of myself with Becky Kamowitz, Director of Communications for the Skin Cancer Foundation, the United States' largest organization dedicated to the early detection of Skin Cancer, at the American Academy of Dermatology meeting in New Orleans, LA, March 14th to 19th, 2023. At this meeting, I renewed my membership in this worthy organization at the Mission Level, to help raise Skin Cancer awareness. In fact, in my own Cordova Dermatology practice, I diagnosed and treated 13 patients with Melanoma in 2022, my second largest number of such patients within one calendar year. Part of this large number could be people coming out of seclusion at the end of COVID, and part could be the priority I've placed in my own Dermatology practice on communicating about Melanoma to help to raised awareness.
My own Memphis Dermatology practice sponsored a short movie on Melanoma about a beautiful young lady named Scarlet Akins, a 28-year-old woman studying to be a teacher at Ole Miss who discovered a changing spot on her knee when she was about two months from delivering her daughter. Check out her moving story on Youtube: “Understanding the Melanoma Crisis: Scarlet’s Story.”
So see spot. See spot change. See a Dermatologist!
George Woodbury Jr. M.D.
8143 Walnut Grove Road
Cordova TN 38018