Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma skin cancer and squamous cell cancers are, by far, the most common skin cancers treated by Shereen Timani, M.D. at Johns Creek Dermatology and dermatologists nationwide. They are more common than any other form of cancer.
Since basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers rarely spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body, they are normally less concerning and are treated differently from melanoma.
Melanoma skin cancer is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It is most often caused by intense, occasional ultraviolet exposure from sunshine or tanning beds. The growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects. The damage leads the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white.
Melanoma skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin, but they are more likely to start on the chest and back in men and on the legs in women. The neck and face are other common sites.
If melanoma skin cancer is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable. If not, the cancer can advance and spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and isnat times fatal. Melanoma skin cancer accounts for about 1% of all skin cancers diagnosed in the United States, but it causes most of the skin cancer deaths. It is estimated that 9,320 deaths (5,990 men and 3,330 women) from melanoma will occur this year.
Dr. Timani recommends that everyone practice monthly head-to-toe self-examination of their skin so that they can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable. What follows are the warnings signs of skin cancer and what to look for during a self-examination. If you spot anything suspicious, schedule an appointment with Dr. Timani.
Performed regularly, self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. It should be done often enough to become a habit, but not so often as to feel like a bother. For most people, once a month is ideal, but ask Dr. Timani if you should do more frequent checks. You may find it helpful for Johns Creek Dermatology to do a full-body exam first, to assure you that any existing spots, freckles, or moles are normal or treat any that may not be. After the first few times, self-examination should take no more than 10 minutes – a small investment in what could be a life-saving procedure.
First, for a successful self-exam, you obviously need to know what you’re looking for. As a general rule, to spot either melanomas or non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, take note of any new moles or growths, and any existing growths that begin to grow or change significantly in any other way. Lesions that change, itch, bleed, or don’t heal are also alarm signals.
Because melanoma skin cancer is the deadliest form of cancer it is vital to catch it early. There are two specific strategies for early recognition of the disease: the ABCDEs and the Ugly Duckling sign.
The ABCDE’s of Melanoma Self Examination
A – Asymmetrical Shape – Melanoma lesions are often irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
B – Border – Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have irregular borders that are difficult to define.
C – Color – The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
D – Diameter – Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).
E – Evolution – The evolution of your mole(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to diagnosing a melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and/or size, bring it to the attention of a dermatologist immediately.
The Ugly-Duckling Model
The ugly duckling model is based on the observation that moles, or nevi, in the same individual tend to resemble one another and that malignant melanoma often deviates from the individual’s mole pattern, even in those with multiple atypical nevi.
Each patient is unique; therefore, results may vary.
Dr. Timani is a board-certified dermatologist who can diagnose and surgically remove skin cancers. Skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body. Many individuals miss spots that appear on the backs of their legs, in their scalps, or on their back. You need a trained professional to do a thorough check-up once a year. Contact Johns Creek Dermatology to schedule a mole check or to discuss an area of concern. Our practice in Johns Creek, GA, takes exceptional pride in professionalism and personalized care. We serve patients in the Atlanta Metro area as well as Roswell, Cumming, Alpharetta, Suwanee, Milton and Duluth, GA.