The appearance of a new mole or apparent changes in an existing mole can be a sign of a serious skin cancer called melanoma.
Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that if left untreated can spread into surrounding tissues and organs of the body. Fortunately, melanoma is relatively rare and can be successfully cured, if it’s identified early enough. So what do you need to know to help prevent it?
Melanoma develops in the melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment called melanin. Fault in the genes that control how cells grow and divide is responsible for developing abnormal cancer cells, but the exact cause of melanoma is not known. No one is entirely free from the risk of getting melanoma.
The chance of developing melanoma increases with age. Nevertheless, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in younger people, between 15 and 35 years of age. Melanoma death rates have not declined over the years.
It is important to get into the routine of having professional skin checks and perform regular self-checks. The most important way to lower your risk of melanoma is to protect yourself from exposure to UV rays by doing the following:
Almost everyone has moles and most moles are harmless, but a change in the way a mole looks is a sign that you should see a dermatologist. Here’s the simple ABCD mole assessment rule:
Other warning signs of melanoma include:
If our consultant dermatologists suspect that a change in your skin may be melanoma, a sample of the area is removed. This procedure is called a biopsy. It can usually be done in the clinic. The sample is then sent to a pathology lab to determine if it contains cancer cells.
Surgery is the best way to treat early melanomas. More advanced melanomas may need other kinds of treatment. Again, the best defense against melanoma is finding it and removing it early.