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carcinoma, melanoma...I don't know, some kind of "noma" Part I

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Monday, April 12, 2010

carcinoma, melanoma...I don't know, some kind of "noma" Part I

A common misconception is that melanoma is caused by sun exposure. Not so, my friends, melanoma is related to genetic risk factors such as number of moles present on ones skin( more than 100 is considered high risk), family history, and skin type (us fair skinned folks are at higher risk).  Melanoma is a malignant tumor that first starts in melanocytes which are the cells that  pigment our skin, hair, eyes and they are located in the bottom layer of the epidermis (the stratum basale).  These are the most serious of all forms of skin cancer, in that it is one of the least frequent forms of skin cancer, but has the highest number of deaths per year.  The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2008, there were around 8,420 fatalities in the U.S., 5,400 in men and 3,020 in women. The number of new cases of invasive melanoma yearly is estimated at 62,480; of these, 34,950 will be in men and 27,350 in women.  The good news?  It is 100% curable if found and treated early. The bad? It can advance quickly and spread to other parts of the body and cause massive problems, leading to death.  If you have a family history (direct link- like mom, dad, sibling, etc) you have a 50% higher chance of getting a melanoma than the general population, and even an indirect link (like grandmother/father, aunt, uncle) your risk is increased.

The best way to prevent is to look for the ABCDE of each mole:
Asymmetry: if you imagine a line side to side/up and down through the mole, the sides should match, if not...get it checked out
Border: is the border raised or uneven (scalloped edges)
Color: having different colors in one mole, or the appearance can black, red, blue, or change
Diameter: melanomas are usually larger than the head of an eraser (6mm or 1/4in) but they can be smaller too....
Evolving: has a mole changed in shape, color, size over time?  Is it itchy or scaly sometimes but not always?

A good thing to do is give yourself a look over every month, and if you notice something, go get it checked out.  But, the best thing to do is to go to a dermatologist and get your body mapped.  I will be honest, it is not the most fun MD appointment ever...they literally map every mole/skin difference on your body, and they look in EVERY nook and cranny on your body, but you have the ease of mind to know that it is documented and when you go back in six months (or a year depending) they will compare what you have now to what you had.  if you are anything like me, you'll see something and think "oh, that was there last month....right?" Going to a dermatologist ensures that it is being done properly and it will get assessed and taken care of post haste!!

And, I still expect you all to be wearing sunblock...just because melanoma isn't related to sun exposure doesn't mean that other cancers aren't a direct relation!

Stay tuned for other forms of skin cancer that effect us all, prevention, and how to spot it!!!

Yours in Good Health
B

2 Comments:

At April 22, 2010 at 9:27 PM , Blogger Miss Anne said...

Get your birthday suit checked out every year on your birthday! yeah! UConn Health Center Derm will take pretty much any insurance or none @ all. The skin you're in is worth it!

 
At April 27, 2010 at 11:05 AM , Blogger Nurse Bridgid said...

Thanks for the additional info Anne! And, that is a really good idea to do it on our birthday....so as not to forget!!

 

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