By the end of this year, about 207,400 people will get melanoma skin cancer and more than 7,000 of them will die from it, according to the Skin Cancer Organization. Although the number of new melanoma cases has been steadily increasing over the past few decades, the number of melanoma-related deaths has dropped slightly in recent years, due in part to early detection and treatment.
At Easton Dermatology Associates in Easton and Salisbury, Maryland, our team of skin cancer experts specialize in screening for, diagnosing, and treating all types of skin cancer. And you’re an integral part of our team because you know your skin better than anyone else. A simple, but thorough, self-check can spot suspicious changes that may indicate the beginning stages of skin cancer.
Although melanoma can affect normal skin, it often develops in moles, so it’s important to get to know your moles intimately. The more familiar you are with their location, number, and general characteristics, the more readily you’ll notice changes — and change is the first warning sign of a problem. An easy way to remember what to look for is to follow your ABCDEs.
Most moles are either oval or round. They may be spherical or flat, but they are almost always symmetrical. If you have a mole that is asymmetrical, and one half looks different than the other, we urge you to come in and let us evaluate it.
Pay attention to the edges of your moles. They should be smooth and even. If you notice jagged or blurred edges, scallops, or any other border irregularities, it's time to get them checked.
Moles come in a variety of colors from tones that match your flesh to darker or lighter hues. The important part is that they should be uniform in their coloring, and the shade should remain constant. If you have a mole that has variegated colors, spots, or two tones, it may be a sign that melanoma is lurking within.
Harmless moles are small — no bigger than a pea. So keep an eye on the size of your moles so you can track their growth. If the diameter increases, come see us right away.
Moles are growths of skin, so by definition, they will grow. But normal moles evolve so slowly that you may never notice the minuscule changes. Melanomas, by contrast, evolve quickly. If you take only one key lesson away from this guideline to melanoma, it should be that any detectable change is cause for concern. A good way to keep track of evolving moles is to use your smartphone camera to take pictures of your moles, or download an app to map your moles.
The best treatment for melanoma
In addition to checking your own moles, it’s important to come in for a skin cancer screening regularly. Our team can advise you on the best frequency of your screens depending on your risk factors.
If we find that you have melanoma, the best course of treatment is to remove it from your skin completely. The traditional method, called wide excision, removes the malignant spot as well as the surrounding skin. Though this is typically successful, it also leaves you with a large scar.
At Easton Dermatology Associates, we employ a more complicated procedure that preserves your skin and removes only the cancerous cells. Dr. Hyland Cronin performs Mohs micrographic surgery, a highly skilled procedure that methodically removes one layer of cells at a time until no more cancer is detected.
If you have, or suspect you may have melanoma, or would like to be checked, call to schedule an appointment with one of our providers here at Easton Dermatology Associates.