Melanoma Monday: Shining a light on skin cancer

- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and it is estimated that one person dies from melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer - every hour. Today is Melanoma Monday, and dermatologist Dr. Steven Grekin joins us in studio to tell us more about melanoma.

The big question -- can you spot a melanoma standing in your bathroom?

"What you can see is, you can see a brown, black, pink, blue leison that looks irregular," Dr. Grekin says. "It's not smooth; it looks like a mouse has nibbled right on the edges of the pigmented leison." He also says to keep an eye on spots that could be getting bigger. Dr. Grekin says if it's changing in size, shape, color or texture -- it needs to be examined.

Melanoma is so worrysome, Dr. Grekin explains, because it grows beneath the skin as opposed to the basal cell which grows on the surface and can be easily cut out.

"If we diagnose it early - somebody diagnosed with a very thin, superficial melanoma - they have a 93 percent five-year survival rate. That's pretty much normal in the general population," he says. "But if they don't see it and it grows down deep, this is when it becomes deadly. It metasticizes to the lymph nodes or other organ systems, and those are the people that we unfortunately read about who don't have such a good prognosis."

Tanning beds are a high cause of melanoma among young women. Dr. Grekin says the World Health Organization has determined tanning beds are as deadly as cigarettes.

He adds that, in the past few decades, the number of melanoma cases has increased 15 times, but five-year survival rates have also increased dramatically thanks to new technology that can catch melanoma earlier.

Here are some tips for spotting a troublesome sun spot at home with the ABCDE method. Look for:

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.

You can learn more about melanoma at www.melanomamonday.org


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