Though melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, it's the most dangerous. It's aggressive and if not diagnosed early, it can be fatal. An annual skin examination can help prevent the development of this cancer and is especially important if you or your family have a history of melanoma. During your yearly appointment at OneSkin Dermatology, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Rachel Day can be on the lookout for unusual or changing moles and make sure your skin is healthy. Usually, melanomas present as a new or existing mole that looks irregular or changes. Moles that become very dark or black, have irregular borders, get bigger, bleed, or itch can be signs of melanoma.
Melanomas form when melanocytes (pigmented cells located in the epidermis) become malignant. This can happen when skin cells are damaged by exposure to the sun or ultraviolet light. This exposure can damage cells at the DNA level, causing them to mutate or multiply quickly, becoming a growth and creating melanoma. It's possible to be genetically predisposed to melanoma, too, and those who are can be especially vulnerable to DNA damage from sun exposure. Most melanomas are visible, which means it's extremely important to get yearly skin exams. You can help prevent the development of melanomas by learning to perform regular mole checks and self-examinations. Call OneSkin Dermatology today to find out how to schedule a skin exam or to get more information on melanoma.
Those at Risk
Melanomas can affect anyone and are generally caused by exposure to the sun and your genetics. If you have a family history of melanoma, especially in a primary relative, such as a parent, child, or sibling, you have an increased risk of developing this malignancy. You also have an increased risk of melanoma if you have:
- Lots of moles on your skin
- Tanned in a tanning bed
- Several large moles
- A history of multiple or severe sunburns
- Blue, green, or gray eyes
- Light-colored or red hair
- Excessive sun exposure (even without a sunburn)
It's important to understand which moles on your skin are at risk of becoming melanoma. Generally, moles at risk are atypical. A melanoma may form if the mole looks "different" than other moles on your skin. Atypical moles can be dark or black, appear suddenly or change, or they may have an irregular border. These moles can usually be removed. It's important to receive ongoing mole checks to help identify and eliminate any potential problems.
It can be hard to spot malignant lesions if you haven't been trained to do so. That's one of the reasons it's so important to get regular skin cancer screenings from a trained, board-certified dermatologist, like Dr. Day. At OneSkin Dermatology, we use the ABCDE rule to help our patients learn how to identify the symptoms of melanoma. Here are the elements to watch for that may indicate a spot on your skin is concerning:
- A: Asymmetrical mole (a mole that is not round or oval, or has one side that is bigger than the other)
- B: Borders on the mole (malignant mole typically lack a smooth, clear border)
- C: Color (malignant moles will be either dark or present with several colors throughout the mole)
- D: Diameter (a mole bigger than a pencil eraser may be a sign of malignancy — benign moles stay small)
- E: Evolving (moles that change or grow may be a sign of existing cancer cells)
It's possible for benign moles and freckles to present with some of these signs, but it's best to have all concerning spots examined by a dermatologist.
Dr. Rachel Day, Chambersburg, PA area board-certified dermatologist, specializes in screening and treating patients for skin cancer. She can determine the best treatment for you based on the melanoma's type, stage, and location. At OneSkin Dermatology, Dr. Day will partner with you to identify the appropriate treatment for any concerning or malignant areas on your skin, which usually includes excision with a standard margin. If necessary, Dr. Day will work with cancer specialists to assist with your treatment. Some cases of melanoma may require more diagnostic testing, like a PET or CT scan, lymph node biopsy, or blood work.
Plan Your Service
Schedule a skin check
Because melanoma is one of the most aggressive types of cancer, OneSkin Dermatology is dedicated to educating patients about its development. In a skin cancer screening with Dr. Day, your skin will be examined in order to diagnose and treat concerning spots and lesions as early as possible. Dr. Day will teach you the best methods to use to prevent melanoma from developing, like appropriate sun protection for your skin and what to watch for in your moles. If you've recently noticed changes in your moles or other skin lesions, call OneSkin Dermatology today to book an appointment at our Chambersburg, PA office.