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What are the Risk Factors for Melanoma?

dermatologist doctor inspecting woman skin for moles and melanomaWith May being Melanoma Awareness month, Dr. Amy and the Baby Pibu team want to share important information regarding melanoma. Did you know that melanoma is the 5th most common cancer in both men and women? Even more concerning is that melanoma happens to be one of the most common cancers in young adults from 25-29 years old. The risk of getting melanoma has risen over the past 30 years. The lifetime risk of getting melanoma is 1 in 40 for Whites, 1 in 1000 for African-American, and 1 in 200 for Hispanics.

Considering these stats, who should do a regular skin check?

Check out these risk factors and if you answer yes to any of them, you should be examined by a dermatologist and perform self-skin exams as well.

  • Red hair
  • Diffuse freckles
  • More than 50+ moles
  • History of blistering sunburn
  • History of significant tanning bed use
  • Family history of melanoma in 1st degree relative
  • History of atypical or dysplastic moles
  • Occupation risk of working outdoors

What do I look for on a self-skin exam, especially when looking out for a melanoma?

  • When looking at individual moles, you can use the ABCDEs of melanoma detection: A (asymmetry), B (uneven Borders), C (multiple Colors), D (greater than 6mm Diameter), E (Evolving or changing mole).
  • A particularly important sign to use in self-skin exams is the “ugly duckling “ sign or “outlier” sign. We all have one or more families of moles that look similar to each other. Take notice of the mole that looks the most different (the ugly duckling or outlier) as this is one of the most sensitive ways to spot a melanoma or severely atypical mole. There are clinical studies which support the highly sensitive ugly duckling or outlier detection system.
    • Here is an example- If you look at yourself head to toe, you may notice that you have a few raised-up moles and multiple medium to dark brown flat moles. You may notice that these moles look similar to each other. Then, you may notice a brown mole with a halo of redness. This mole is your ugly duckling and is the one to go get checked out.
  • Finally, have a method to how you look. Consistency is key. After a shower, look yourself over from back (with mirror) to head to neck to armpits to tummy to arms/hands to front of legs/feet to back of legs/feet.

Finally, here are some common misconceptions on what people think of skin cancers.

  • Skin cancers can’t kill me
    • Deeper, invasive melanomas carry a significant risk to metastasize. This risk depends on the Breslow depth of the melanoma
    • 2-5% of diagnosed squamous cancers have a risk to metastasize
  • Skin cancers look like funny or bad looking moles
    baby sunscreen
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    • The most common skin cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. Basal cell carcinomas commonly present as pink/red pimples that are not healing or going away. Squamous cell carcinomas present as new inflamed wart-like growths.
  • Skin cancers are large, bleeding lesions
    • Sometimes melanoma can appear as a small 2-3 mm very dark uniform flat mole. Remember if it’s an ugly duckling, don’t ignore it.

You can prevent skin cancers by minimizing sun or ultraviolet radiation exposure.

  • Limit UV irradiation by avoiding intense sun exposure and sunburns.
  • Use Broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreens
  • Start the sun protection measures early in infancy and childhood as childhood sunburns significantly increase your risk of melanoma.

http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/melanoma-causes-and-risk-factors
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/melanoma-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html
https://cancerstatisticscenter.cancer.org/#/

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