There has been a rise in the number of melanoma cases for the past 30 years. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be over 90,000 new cases of melanoma this year.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes.

Melanocytes are skin cells responsible for creating the brown pigment called melanin. This pigment helps in protecting the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.

It’s not clear what exactly causes melanoma. However, experts believed that unprotected exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and the frequent use of tanning lamps and beds increases one’s risk of developing this type of skin cancer.

What are the symptoms of melanoma?

Although melanoma can develop in any part of the body, it is most common in areas that have had exposure to the sun. These include the face, arms, and legs.

Melanoma can cause a change in an existing mole or development of new pigment on the skin. It may also appear as a new unusual growth on the skin.

What to look for:

When assessing an unusual-looking mole, think of ABCDE:

  • Asymmetry

Melanomas have asymmetrical shapes.

  • Border

Most melanomas have scalloped or irregular borders.

  • Color

Changes in color or uneven color in moles may indicate melanoma.

  • Diameter

See your doctor if new moles or the unusual-looking growths in your skin are larger than 1/4 inch.

  • Evolving

A mole that changes in color, that grows, or comes with other symptoms such as itchiness or bleeding may also indicate melanoma.

How to prevent melanoma?

Using broad spectrum (provides UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is one of the simplest ways to prevent melanoma. You can also prevent it through:

  1. Avoiding the use of UV tanning beds
  2. Seeking shade especially between 10 AM and 4 PM (these are times of the day when the sun hits the hardest)
  3. Doing self-checks every month (examining your skin head-to-toe)
  4. Seeing your physician every year

Premier Surgical Associates in Knoxville specializes in the treatment of skin cancers. This summer, protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, and if you see any changes in moles or freckles on your skin, schedule an appointment with your doctor to be sure there’s nothing abnormal. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Fortunately, with early detection and treatment, it is often very curable.