Look Out for These Warning Signs of Melanoma
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and according to Skin Cancer Foundation it develops when skin cells have unrepaired DNA damage (usually caused by sun tanning, natural or in tanning beds) which causes mutations which make the skin cells multiply very quickly and form tumors (malignant). Most of these melanomas are black or brown in color, but there are also those that are red, pink, blue, white, or even in the tone of the skin. Skin Cancer Foundation states that there are around 9,940 melanoma-caused deaths each year in the U.S. The good news is that if it is treated early, it can be successfully cured, and therefore it is important to know how to recognize the warning signs and if, God forbid, it happens to someone you know – you can warn them on time.
The most common warning signs of melanoma are visible on the skin. Those are moles, brown spots, skin growths (signs that don’t have to mean anything dangerous, but it wouldn’t be bad to check them anyway). Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that having 100 or more moles on your body means you are at a higher risk of developing this horrible tumor, so they advise getting to know your skin in order to be able to notice any changes that might happen and act in a timely manner.
Asymmetry is one of the warning signs of melanoma. If a mole is asymmetrical it is not benign, and you can check that by drawing a line that goes through the middle and if the two sides are of the same size and shape, you have nothing to worry about. However, if the sides don’t match, the sides are asymmetrical and you should go see your doctor as soon as possible, because it is a warning sign of melanoma.
A non-dangerous mole has borders, and the lines look even and smooth. On the other hand, melanomas are usually uneven with rough edges, sometimes blurred. The whole mole when benign tends to look like a stain.
Even though a melanoma can be of any color mentioned previously in the article, a mixture of colors is a strong warning sign. If there are different shades of one color (usually brown) on a mole, it is certainly time to visit the doctor. But if a mole is even in color, usually one shade of brown, it most probably is a benign, non-harmful mole.
Benign moles usually don’t have a big diameter. Malignant ones are usually larger and thus have a larger diameter which can reach the size of 6mm, or the size of a pencil-top eraser. But this doesn’t have to be an early sign, because even malignant moles are first smaller in size, so if they get this big, it may mean that the melanoma has progressed.
If a mole is evolving it can mean that the body is developing melanoma. Benign moles don’t change over time – they stay the same in size, shape, elevation and color. On the other hand, malignant ones tend to change in the mentioned ways and the first time any change in the mole’s appearance is noticed, or any itchiness or bleeding happens – it is a sign that something is wrong and you should immediately make an appointment at the doctor’s office.
Even if there aren’t any signs of melanoma, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be careful at all times. That means avoiding the sun when it shines the most, which is between 10 AM and 4 PM, avoiding tanning and not using UV tanning beds. It also means not allowing yourself to burn and covering up with clothing, hats and sunglasses. An important prevention method is using sunscreen protection which should have a SPF of 15 or higher, or if it is summer and you are outside for a longer period of time, the factor shouldn’t be below 30. Finally, regular checkups at the doctor’s office are a very important factor, as the doctor will keep track of every potential change that may happen on your body.