May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month! Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Among the three most common types of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises in cells known as melanocytes. Melanocytes give skin its color. When these cells grow too quickly, the formation of melanoma skin cancer is the result. Melanoma can start anywhere on the body and can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer.
Although melanoma only accounts for 1% of skin cancer diagnoses each year, it causes the majority of skin cancer-related deaths. According to statistical information from The Skin Cancer Foundation, the number of melanoma deaths is expected to increase by 4.4% in 2023.
Melanoma has been deemed the most dangerous type of skin cancer due to its ability to rapidly spread to other organs of the body, if not treated in its early stages. Thankfully, when detected and treated early on, melanoma is curable. The 5-year survival rate for early-detection melanoma patients is about 99 %.
Who can develop melanoma?
Additional statistics by The Skin Cancer Foundation state that an estimated 185,680 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2023: 58,120 will be men and 39,490 will be women. In the U.S. men have a higher rate of melanoma than women, although this varies by age. The risk of melanoma increases throughout an individual’s lifetime; the common age of diagnosis is 65.
Melanoma is also more common among people who have had previous sun exposure to their face or other parts of their body; this includes freckles, moles, age spots, and scars from injuries or surgery where there was sun damage at some point during childhood or adolescence.
Naturally, darker-skinned people have more melanocytes than naturally fair-skinned people and have more pheomelanin. While eumelanin has the ability to protect the skin from sun damage, pheomelanin does not. That’s why people with darker skin tones are at lower risk for developing skin cancer than fair-skinned people who, due to lack of eumelanin, are more susceptible to sun damage, burning, and skin cancer.
Melanoma can start anywhere on the body and can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma can start anywhere on the body that has melanocytic cells. These areas include part of the skin, the bottom of the feet, under fingernails and toenails, and in the mouth and eyes. Eyes? Yes. Although rare, you can develop melanoma of the eye. It’s important to know that melanoma is not just about moles; it can look like any skin growth, including an unusual mole or freckle that changes color, size, and shape over time.
Early detection is key for survival.
Annual skin checks by a medical professional are just one way that an individual can be proactive when it comes to early skin cancer detection. A skin check is a thorough examination of the entire body to identify any suspicious growth or lesions on the skin.
In addition to an annual skin exam, it is also recommended to perform regular skin checks at home. Remember, if you have a mole that has changed in size, shape or color see your doctor immediately.
The more you know about melanoma, the more likely you will detect it early.
Being familiar with the signs and symptoms of melanoma can help you detect concerning areas sooner. Here are just a few examples of what melanoma could look like:
Photos courtesy of skincancer.org
We hope you found this article helpful and informative. We know that it can be difficult to know what to do when faced with a diagnosis like melanoma, but we want you to know that there is hope!