Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that begins in cells called melanocytes, cells that make the pigment melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin and hair color. Melanoma may arise on the skin or other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines. Important warning signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion or the development of a new growth on the skin.
Annually, an estimated 70, 230 persons are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma. Melanoma is highly curable when detected in its earliest stages and treated properly. When detected early, the five-year survival rate is 98%.
The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have identified the following risk factors for Melanoma:
- Living in sunny climates or at high altitudes
- Excessive exposure to sunlight or tanning beds
- One or more blistering sunburns during childhood
- Being white
- Having a fair complexion
- Having several large or many small moles, irregular moles or multiple birthmarks
- Having a family or personal history of irregular moles and/or melanoma
- Weakened immune system due to certain diseases and/or medication
Because melanoma is highly curable when detected in its earliest stages, early detection is important. Adults should examine their skin regularly and look for any changes. The ABCD rule outlines some of the warning signs of melanoma:
- Asymmetry- half of the mole does not match the other half
- Border irregularity- edges of mole are irregular in shape
- Color irregularity – the mole is more than one color
- Diameter - greater than 6 millimeters in size
- Evolving or Elevation – a mole that is changing or has areas that are higher than others
Adults should inspect their skin regularly and see their doctor if any new lesions or changes to existing lesions are noted.
When melanoma is suspected, the skin and possibly surrounding tissue and lymph nodes will be biopsied to confirm a diagnosis. Treatment for melanoma will depend on how advanced the cancer is. Treatment may include surgery, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of treatments. Persons with melanoma may want to talk to their doctor about taking part in a clinical trial. If a person’s melanoma is thought to be hereditary, the patient may be referred for genetic counseling.
At Central Baptist Hospital a team of healthcare professionals are available to help patients through early detection and treatment. This team includes Surgeons, Medical Oncologists, Radiation Oncologists, Oncology Nurses, Genetic Counselors, Social Worker, Chaplain and a Registered Dietician.
For more information about Melanoma or Central Baptist Services:
- General Information about Melanoma
- Risk Factors
- Exams and Tests
- Prevention and Early Detection
- Genetic Counseling and Testing
- Clinical Trials