Ok kids, find your seat. Kids! KIIIDDDDSSSSS! That's better, thank you!
I'm Kelly Ballou, PA-C....your resident Summit County "Derm Nerd" and Dermatology Teacher for today. Pies, cake, sushi and even apples are always accepted but not required. ;)
For those who have seen me in clinic, you know that I also hand out suckers, stickers, and gold stars for good behavior (you know, not crying/kicking/screaming, being attentive during our time together, and for being punctual).
Now, for today's lesson...
THE ABC's of MELANOMA - WHAT IS MELANOMA
For starters, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: Melanoma is "the most dangerous form of skin cancer, which generally develops when unrepaired DNA damage to melanocytes (pigment producing cells in the skin and other areas of the body) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead these cells to multiply abnormally and rapidly to form malignant tumors." This damage to the DNA is most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds.
Melanomas can resemble moles and develop all by themselves or some can develop within or near moles you may have had for many years. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, 90% of melanoma cases are caused by UV exposure. However, mucosal melanoma (in the mouth, anus, nasal sinuses, vaginal area), ocular melanoma (develops in the eyes), and melanomas that occur on areas of the body not exposed to the sun do not have a known cause as of yet, such as genetics or other environmental factors outside of sun exposure.
What we do know is this: “Melanoma does not discriminate. It can occur virtually anywhere on the body and it doesn’t care about your age, race or gender,” said Shelby Moneer, director of education at the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF). And, melanoma is not as rare as you might think. This type of skin cancer kills an estimated 10,130 people in the US annually and kills 1 person every 54 minutes world-wide.
A MOLE VERSUS MELANOMA - WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
TYPES OF MOLES
Congenital nevi are moles that are present at birth. Congenital nevi occur in about one in 100 people. These moles are slightly more likely to develop into melanoma (skin cancer) than are moles that appear after birth. A mole or freckle should be checked regularly if it has a diameter of more than a pencil eraser or other characteristics listed in the ABCDE’s of Melanoma.
Dysplastic nevi (AKA “abnormal moles”) are moles that may be larger than average (larger than a pencil eraser) and irregular in shape, color, or borders. They tend to have uneven colors throughout and may have poorly defined borders. These lesions are more likely to become melanoma over time.
In fact, people who have 10 or more abnormal moles have a 12 times increased risk of developing melanoma, which can be deadly if not caught in time. ANY CHANGES in a mole you have had for a long time or ANY NEW LESION THAT DEVELOPS SUDDENLY should be checked by a dermatology provider immediately.
BEING EDUCATED IS THE KEY
Just like everything in life, the more information you have, the better decisions you can make. And especially when it comes to your skin health, having the right education does matter.
Here is a graph of the ABCD&E's of what to look for in your moles.
EVEN NORMAL MOLES CAN CHANGE INTO ABNORMAL LESIONS OVER TIME...
Pretty much every person has some type of mole or skin lesions located somewhere on their bodies. Even super models. Right Cindy Crawford?
The fact of the matter is that our bodies produce all types of spots including freckles, moles, and many other types of skin lesions.
Moles often appear during our childhood and teenage years. "Most people have anywhere from 10 to 45 moles" according to the MAYO CLINIC.
The good news is that most moles or skin lesions are harmless and rarely turn cancerous.
But this does not mean that you shouldn't monitor what is going on with your moles. Detecting skin cancer is about knowing the warning signs and being proactive in getting these signs checked out immediately once you notice them.
MELANOMA IS NO JOKE
Check out these statistics.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 87,110 cases of cutaneous (skin surface) melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2017
People who have numerous, large, or unusual moles have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
* On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns in their lifetime
* Melanoma accounts for up to three percent of all pediatric cancers...so make sure the kiddos are checked regularly too (especially if they have many moles)!!
TREATMENT OF MELANOMA
The treatment plan for melanoma depends on the following:
Depth of the tumor
Whether or not lymph nodes are involved
Whether or not the malignancy has spread to other parts of the body
BOTTOM LINE - GET YOUR GOLD STAR
THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY’S SKIN CANCER CAMPAIGN:
Also, in May 2014, the "#GETNAKED" Campaign was launched to raise awareness that all skin surfaces should be evaluated regularly in addition to getting a dilated eye exam and dental exam regularly for early detection of melanoma or abnormal moles.
Getting a GOLD STAR is easy. A full body exam will only take 15-30 minutes of your time AND it may SAVE YOUR LIFE!
KNOWING IS LIVING
Hopefully you learned a few things in class today about the difference between Moles and Melanoma and what changes to watch for.
Obviously there is a plethora of information available on the internet and "Dr Google" is a reality in today's society, whether we like it or not. But unfortunately, Dr Google is not always accurate and can be misinterpreted by those unfamiliar with the topic researched. Just saying....beware of information obtained from a less than reputable site.
My final advice before I dismiss class today is to get checked regularly by a professional dermatology provider who takes the time to thoroughly examine all spots on your body. And, for those of you who have been victim to the "Strip and Twirl" exam at other dermatology offices, please see my video link below and know that YOU DESERVE MORE.
If you take the precautionary steps discussed above when watching your skin spots and get regular, thorough full skin exams with your trusted dermatology provider, you can graduate on to a full and rewarding life. Now, where's my apple?
Until the next blog... CLASS DISMISSED! :)
Kelly Ballou, PA-C
Co-Founder Renew Dermatology
Frisco, Colorado (Summit County)
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