Of all the skin cancers, melanoma is the most feared. It can be caused primarily by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds, but it can occur in areas of the body that the sun doesn’t even reach. It has been found on the bottom of feet and in the intestine. Melanoma is so bad that it can spread or metastasize to the lymph glands or other organs, which makes early detection essential.
In the meantime protect yourself by avoiding excessive amounts of sunlight, especially between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. Also be sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF between 30 to 50 for adequate UV protection. So, how does one recognize a melanoma? It would be wise to follow what has been referred to as the A B C D E rule:
1. A is for Asymmetry
Look for asymmetry in the mole. If you visually draw a line through the center of the mole it should appear to be the same on both sides. If not you should get it checked out by a physician.
2. B is for Borders
Check the borders of the mole. Are they smooth and even? If the edges appear scalloped or seem to have traces off the edges please go to your dermatologist.
3. C is for Color
What color is it? A benign mole should only have one or maybe two colors, usually brown or tan, which are distributed evenly. Look specifically for the colors red, black, blue, or white. Any more than two even colors need to be checked.
4. D is for Diameter
If the diameter is more than six millimeters, or the size of a pencil eraser, your doctor needs to know.
5. E is for Evolving
Is the mole evolving? In other words, is it starting to itch? Is it growing? Is the color changing? Has it developed a bump in the middle? Is it bleeding or scaling? If it is, then you know the drill by now. Contact your doctor.
Melanoma has been on the rise in the last three decades or so. Exactly why isn’t known, but it could be in part due to the better detection of it in recent years since as it’s detected it’s also reported more frequently. There is a larger population of elderly than ever before. One other reason is, as mentioned earlier, that tanning beds can present a danger and they have been used more frequently in recent decades.
The most important thing to remember is that early detection can save a life. The more time that is allowed to go by, the more likely it is that melanoma can spread to a lymph node and then spread even further. If detected early a single surgery may be all that is required. And don’t forget your alphabet, especially from A to E.