Skin cancer is deadly disease, and melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer. Since your skin is the largest organ of your body, you need to protect it to guard against skin cancer. Melanoma develops in stages. If you catch it early enough, your dermatologist at Century Medical and Dental Center can treat it relatively easily. But if you wait, melanoma is much more difficult to cure and requires more invasive procedures. So if you suspect you have early symptoms of melanoma, call for an appointment today!
The color of your skin is predetermined by the cells — called the melanocytes — that produce melanin. Found at the bottom layer of your skin, the melanocyte cells cover your body, since skin is the largest organ in humans. Melanoma is the type of cancer that develops in these cells. It’s the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.
Like many cancers, the exact cause of melanoma isn’t definitively known. Your best Brooklyn dermatologist at Century Medical and Dental Center suspects some contributing factors, such as the ultraviolet radiation from the sun and tanning beds. Limiting your exposure to the sun and avoiding tanning beds helps reduce your risk of developing melanoma.
Symptoms of Melanoma
Although melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, it often shows on your legs, arms, back, or face, as these areas are more often exposed to the sun. You should monitor areas that don’t normally see sunlight as well. You can even develop melanoma on the soles of your feet, the beds of your fingernails or the palms of your hands, especially if you have naturally darker skin.
Danger signs of melanoma include changes in the appearance of an existing mole. Normal moles share similar characteristics like uniformity in color and size — they’re usually smaller than a quarter inch, the size of a pencil eraser. Melanoma can appear as an area of new or differently pigmented skin, but changes in moles often indicate the need for a doctor’s visit at Century Medical and Dental Center, a multi-discipline practice where a number of specialists can confer with one another.
While melanomas vary significantly in appearance, the differences are spelled out, from A through E:
- A stands for Asymmetrical Shape. If one side of a mole changes and becomes irregular in shape, keep a close watch on it.
- B stands for Irregular Border. A notched or scalloped border indicates cause for concern.
- C stands for Changes in Color. If you notice a growth with many colors or showing an uneven shading of color, point this out to your dermatologist.
- D stands for Diameter. If a mole starts growing, exceeding a quarter inch, mention the changes to your Brooklyn skin specialist.
- E stands for Evolving. Changes in color, size, shape or itchiness indicate an area of suspicion. If your mole starts to bleed, get it checked out soon.
Possible Causes and Risk Factors for Developing Melanoma
Your skin normally develops new cells as the old ones die and fall off. The new cells push up from the inner layers of your skin with older cells reaching the surface. Like basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma causes something to happen to these normal DNA signals and instead of a slow, steady movement, things begin growing out of control. Doctors don’t know the exact cause, but genetics and environment seem to play a role. UV light seems to have an effect on melanomas forming on your skin, but that doesn’t account for hidden melanomas that see little or no sunlight.
Certain individuals appear more likely to develop melanoma. Risk factors include:
- One or more severe sunburns in your past
- Fair skin, freckles or easily burned skin — skin with less pigmentation
- Many or unusual moles
- A family history of melanoma
- A weakened immune system, due to disease or organ transplant
- Using tanning beds frequently or spending long periods of time in the sun over the years
- Living close to the equator or at high elevations, which exposes you to higher levels of UV light
If you fall into any of these risk categories, ask your dermatologist about routine skin cancer screenings. The stage of your melanoma determines your best treatment options. The earlier you catch the disease, the easier it is to cure.
Your Brooklyn doctor removes very thin, early-stage melanoma completely, including layers beneath the skin. For many, this treatment completely eradicates suspicious cells and cancer concerns. Melanoma may recur, however, so keep vigilant for future symptoms. For later-stage melanoma or for melanoma that has already spread, however, your treatment may include:
- Removing any affected lymph nodes through surgery
- Taking a cancer-fighting medication in a process known as chemotherapy, either through an IV, pill form or both
- Using high-powered energy beams directly targeting cancer cells in a radiation therapy treatment
- Undergoing certain biological therapies that help boost your body’s immune system to fight the cancer cells
- Getting targeted therapies that pinpoint the vulnerabilities of your genetically mutated cancer cells
All these treatments have side effects and some are more effective than others. Discuss your treatment options with your doctor, and make sure you ask all the questions you have. If you think you may have melanoma, Contact your medical specialists in Brooklyn at Century Medical and Dental Center.