What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops from your skin’s melanocytes, the skin cells responsible for producing melanin, the skin’s natural pigment. Most melanomas are caused by overexposure to the sun beginning in childhood. When melanocytes become malignant, changes in pigmentation, particularly new areas of black and red coloring, constitute the earliest visible sign of cancer. While melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, it is by far the most virulent. Melanomas can spread to internal organs, making them quite dangerous. Melanomas are responsible for an estimated 75 percent of skin cancer deaths, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Early detection is critical for curing this skin cancer.
Melanomas look like moles and often develop from existing moles. That’s why it is important for people to conduct regular self-examinations of their skin in order to detect any potential skin cancer early, when it is treatable.
Melanoma is diagnosed via a biopsy. When caught early, surgical removal is curative.
Melanoma Screenings: Is It Time for Your Skin Check?You get regular check-ups to check on your heart, lungs and joints — but what are you doing to ensure the health of the largest organ in your body (your skin)? If you have not undergone a skin check in the past year or ever, it may be time to schedule a melanoma screening.
Melanoma & Skin Check-Ups
Dr. Hendrix and Shirien regularly perform skin check-ups that evaluate your skin from head to toe for signs of skin cancer, including its deadliest form, melanoma. Dermatologists are well-versed in melanoma’s appearance and common locations, and they can perform skin checks to identify suspicious-looking moles or other lesions. If they identify an irregular mole, they can remove a portion of the tissue and test it for the presence of cancerous cells, a process known as a biopsy.
While the general recommendation is to schedule a melanoma screening on a yearly basis as you would a regular physical, you should always contact your dermatologist if you notice significant changes in a mole. These could include if a mole’s borders become irregular, the mole turns black, red or unevenly colored or starts to grow larger. Also, if you had a significant amount of sun exposure, you may need to visit a dermatologist more often. You are at higher risk and may experience faster skin changes than a person who stayed out of the sun.
As summer’s temperatures heat up and you start to spend more time outside, don’t forget to put on your sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Reapply frequently to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. You’ll not only reduce your melanoma risk, you’ll also maintain younger-looking skin.
For more information on Melanoma in the Austin, TX area call Central Austin Dermatology at (512) 450-1001 today!