What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is an extremely deadly form of skin cancer that attacks melanocytes, the cells that create pigment in human skin. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the numbers of patients diagnosed with melanoma is rising: cases have increased by almost three hundred percent over the past forty years. Deaths from melanoma represent about three-fourths of all deaths from skin cancer and represent up to two percent of the total numbers of cancer deaths each year. Patients with light skin (Caucasian race) are at highest risk to develop the condition. A licensed and board-certified dermatologist such as Goodman Dermatology must perform full-body checks. Preventive steps can help patients decrease the risk of developing melanoma if risk is present. Early identification of this disease is essential to the patient’s survival.
What are the risks of developing this skin cancer?
Changing moles; atypical nevi; moles that are greater than 15 centimeters in diameter (on the patient’s skin at birth); Caucasian race; relative with the disease; tanning booth use (ten or more uses a year, prior to age thirty); fifty or more total moles on the patient’s body; tendency to get sunburns or develop freckles (rather than tan).
How can I prevent this disease?
Identifying, then managing risk factors such as damage from harmful UV rays, is essential. Daily sunscreen use with a high SPF (a minimum of SPF 30 for those with risk factors) is very important.
How can I recognize suspicious skin lesions?
Remember the “A-B-C-D” rules: asymmetry (the halves of each side of the mole should mirror each other; if they don’t, that’s an assymetric lesion); border (potential cancers have poorly-defined borders or look wavy); color (uneven pigmentation or strange colors that aren’t usually present in skin are warning signs–call the dermatologist now); and diameter (larger moles with at least one-fourth inch diameters are suspicious–this is about the size of the eraser on a pencil).
How does this disease develop?
Skin exposed to ultraviolet rays of the sun stimulates the skin’s melanocytes to make more melanin. This process actually prevents the individual from getting a sunburn but, over time, this damages the skin’s DNA and its ability to repair itself. Tanning salons are quite dangerous and should be avoided. Many researchers know that tanning booths and other machines seriously damage health skin.
Where does melanoma appear?
Melanoma can present almost anywhere on the patient’s body, including the eye, genitourinary/GI systems, in lymph glands, or as a result of typically slow-growing leptomeninges.
How does the dermatologist check for melanoma?
Individuals with moles may have a higher probability of developing this condition. Most moles are common or benign, but they must be checked by the dermatologist for any change in color, size, or shape. (It’s also important for the patient to perform regular self-checks to identify any changes in these moles. The legs, back, and trunk should be checked by a family member or friend, or with a mirror. Please contact Goodman Dermatology right away about any suspicious moles.)
Dysplastic nevi, a certain type of mole, are considered atypical. They may appear in a range of colors that are abnormal for the skin, including black, white, or even bluish in color. The dermatologist is likely to biopsy these moles to check for cancer.
What happens during an office appointment?
Dr. Marcus B. Goodman and associates asks the patient about his or her medical history because some families have a higher predisposition to skin cancers. He will check the patient’s skin for suspicious moles, blemishes, or lesions. Especially large nevi of more than 5 mm diameter have a higher probability of becoming cancerous. It’s important for the patient to tell the dermatologist about any serious sunburns, such as those suffered in childhood, because these incidents can increase the risk of skin cancer. He will order required imaging studies if concerns of metastatic cancer present.
What are the different types of this skin cancer?
Harvard University School of Medicine cites four primary types of this type of skin cancer, including:
• Lentigo maligna: occurs primarily in older patients (greater than age fifty-five). It’s a slow-growing cancer and also the least likely to develop into metastatic disease. Sun damaged skin areas develop these lesions.
• Superficial/Spreading: happens in up to eighty percent of all cases of this form of the disease. Large lesions, approximately six mm in diameter, are usually present.
• Acral lentiginous: is present in about five percent of patients with this type of skin cancer. This malignant disease causes many lesions that appear in unusual places that haven’t been exposed to the sun, such as the soles of feet, fingernails/toenails, or on the palms of hands. The patient usually complains of intense pain with type.
• Nodular: affects up to thirty percent of patients with densely pigmented, thick lesions.
What treatments are available for patients?
Goodman Dermatology will biopsy any suspicious lesion or mole during an office visit because it’s essential to confirm the patient’s diagnosis. Next, the doctor must excise any lesions through surgery. Most surgeries don’t require a hospital stay but, if the patient has a great number of malignant lesions, this is a possibility. To rid the patient’s body of any remaining cancer, chemotherapeutic medicines or immunomodulators may be prescribed. Patients receive post-surgical follow-ups and regularly scheduled appointments thereafter.
Prevention and early identification are critical to avoiding or treating this type of skin cancer. Patients in greater Atlanta, including those in Roswell, Alpharetta, Johns Creek, East Cobb, Northeast Cobb and beyond, should call Dr. Marcus B. Goodman at (770) 754-0787 for an appointment now.