During the last month leading up to summer, it is important to discuss melanoma and skin cancer prevention.
May is melanoma awareness month.
At Live Young Medical, in Sidney BC, we are very much committed to our patient care, which in turn leads to patient education. As summer approaches, we would like to bring awareness to skin cancer detection and prevention.
First Let’s Discuss: What is Skin Cancer?
There are three types of skin cancer that are most common and come from the three main cell types in the skin: melanocytes, basal cells, and squamous cells. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) from sunlight is the number one cause of skin cancer because it damages these cells.
There are two broad groups of skin cancer that result from UV exposure: melanoma and non-melanoma cancer.
What Exactly is Melanoma?
Melanoma is fast growing, may spread from where it first develops and can be fatal if not removed early and completely. Melanoma arises from melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin which protects our cells from the harmful effects of UV radiation. The darker the skin, the more melanin it contains. Moles also contain melanin. Although UV exposure is the most important (and avoidable) risk for melanoma, melanoma can occur in non-sun exposed areas of the skin and on mucous membranes, such as the mouth.
Non-melanoma cancers are squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas (mentioned above). These tend to be slower growing and localized. While less aggressive, these forms of skin cancer are very common as people age.
Symptoms of Melanoma
One of the main things we want to bring to light is the importance of being aware of melanoma and its detection. Because many melanomas develop on the skin where they can be seen, they have a good chance of being detected early. If you are diligent.
It is critical to regularly examine your skin for any new or unusual growths, or changes in existing moles. If you find anything suspicious, you should discuss it with your primary care physician, a dermatologist (skin doctor) or a healthcare professional.
What am I looking for?
A normal mole is generally colored evenly (brown, black or tan), and are less than 6 mm in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser). They can be flat or raised, and generally, do not change over time.
Early warning signs of melanoma
The first sign of melanoma is typically a new spot on the skin, or a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole.
Here are some things to look for (known as the ABCDE method) which may flag whether an abnormal skin growth may be melanoma:
Asymmetry: The mole has an irregular shape.
Border: The edge is not smooth, but irregular or notched.
Color: The mole has uneven shading or dark spots.
Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolving or Elevation: The spot is changing in size, shape or texture.
Please Note: The only way to be sure if a mole is melanoma is to have it examined by a doctor.
Other melanoma symptoms may include:
Sores that do not heal
Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin
Itchiness, tenderness or pain
Changes in texture, or scales, oozing or bleeding from an existing mole
Blurry vision or partial loss of sight, or dark spots in the iris
If you would like to learn more about Melanoma or sun exposure, we encourage you to contact us at LiveYoung Medical, in Sidney BC about the importance of adequate sun protection.
Contact us to learn more.