Based on a new study published by the American Cancer Society, cases of melanoma—the deadliest of all skin cancers—are expected to increase by 4.4% in 2023, accounting for an estimated 186,680 cases in the United States alone. Only 1% of total skin cancer cases are melanomas, but this form of cancer is responsible for the majority skin cancer-related deaths, with nearly 20 Americans dying from complications of melanoma every day.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops in the melanocytes, which are the cells responsible for producing melanin in the skin. Melanoma is typically identified using the ABCDE method of evaluating moles by their physical characteristics. Here’s the breakdown:
- A for asymmetrical shape; moles that have irregular shapes that aren’t uniform on all sides.
- B for irregular borders; moles with notched, faded, or ill-defined borders.
- C for changes in color; moles that evolve overtime in color and tone.
- D for diameter; moles that grow to be larger than ¼ of an inch in diameter.
- E for evolution; moles that change their appearance over time or become itchy or painful.
Risk Factors for Melanoma
There are several risk factors associated with melanoma. The greatest cause of melanoma is prolonged recreational sun and ultraviolet exposure, but people with certain medical histories and skin types are also more susceptible to developing melanoma in their lifetime. It is most common in people who:
- Have many moles on their skin
- Have fair skin, red or blonde hair, high-density freckling, and/or light eye color
- Have had extensive or repeated intense exposure to sunlight and sunburn in adolescence or childhood
- Have a history of childhood cancer with radiation treatment and immuno suppression
- Have a family history of melanoma
Treatments for Melanoma
Once melanoma has been diagnosed, your dermatologist will surgically remove it. When melanoma grows deeper into the skin or spreads, treatment becomes more complex. Affected lymph nodes may need to be removed.
Other treatment options for melanoma include immunotherapy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other targeted therapies using FDA-approved drugs.
Protect Yourself from Melanoma with an Annual Skin Exam
The best things we can all do to keep our skin cancer-free is to apply a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen(browse our full line of sunscreen options at shopclara.com), wear sun protective clothing,and schedule annual full body skin exams. Skin exams allow dermatologists to closely evaluate suspicious moles, biopsy if necessary, and give patients peace of mind about concerning skin growths.
Dr. Dan DiBlasi is a board-certified dermatologist who practices general and surgical dermatology in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. His interests are diagnosing and treating skin cancer, as well as general dermatology and complex medical dermatology.