In recent years, the incidence of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, has been on the rise, prompting health experts to issue warnings about the dangers of excessive sun exposure and the importance of early detection. Melanoma, known for its aggressive nature, underscores the need for increased awareness, proactive prevention measures, and regular skin checks.

Melanoma occurs when something goes wrong in the DNA of a melanocyte, which is the cell in our skin that gives it color.  Occasionally, melanoma can occur in the eye or throat.  Fortunately, it is not as common as other skin cancers, basal cell or squamous cell, but has a far greater propensity to spread or metastasize.  The etiology of melanoma is not well understood, but it has a predilection for areas of the skin exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, back, chest, arms, and legs.  In people of color, it can occur on the palmar surface of the hands, between the toes and under the nailbeds. Several risk factors contribute to the development of melanoma, including prolonged sun exposure, a history of sunburn, family history of skin cancer, and a weakened immune system. Individuals with fair skin, light eyes, and a significant number of moles are also at an increased risk.  Often the first signs of a melanoma are changes in the size, shape or color of a mole.  Normal moles are round, uniform in color and usually the size of a pencil head eraser (4mm) or smaller.

To help screen yourself for melanoma use the of the letters A, B, C, D and E where A is for asymmetry. One half of the mole looks different from the other half. B is for irregular borders where one border is notched or scalloped.  C is for more than one color. Normal moles are uniform in color. D is for an enlarging diameter (greater than 6 mm), and E is for evolving, such as a mole changing in shape, size, color or beginning to itch or bleed.

The best prevention advice is to avoid the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM when the UV radiation is worse.  Wear sunscreen that is a SPF of 30 or more, wear protective clothing, avoid tanning beds, and have your doctor check your skin yearly.

Melanoma is a formidable adversary, but with increased awareness, early detection, and a commitment to sun safety, we can shield ourselves from its devastating effects. By fostering a culture of skin health consciousness, we can strive to reverse the upward trajectory of melanoma cases and ensure a brighter, healthier future for our community.

Remember, when it comes to melanoma, prevention is paramount, and knowledge is power. Stay sun-safe, stay vigilant, and let us collectively combat this rising health threat.

Please contact our KCH Specialty Group to schedule an appointment with our general surgeon, Dr. Robert Ripley, to discuss any concerns you may have or for a yearly skin check. You can schedule an appointment by calling our clinic at 435-644-4115.