The color of your hair, your skin, your eyes…do you ever wonder where it comes from? Obviously, genetically, we can trace these traits to our ancestors, but on an individual, molecular level, it is melanin that’s responsible for our pigmentation. Melanin is produced by melanocyte cells. Mutations in these cells are responsible for skin cancers.
May is Melanoma Awareness Month! Let’s get familiar so we can help the fight.
The most dangerous (but not the most common) type of skin cancer are melanomas. These have a tendency to spread rapidly, making early detection essential. Because melanomas occur visibly on the skin, they are more easily detectable than other cancers.
Your Skin Self-examination
According to SkinCancer.org, it appears that more than half of all melanoma cases are first detected by the patient. This means that self-examinations play a key role in early detection, diagnosis, and treatment.
To perform a skin self-examination, you will need a room with adequate lighting, a full-length mirror, and a handheld mirror. Start from the bottom and work your way to the top of the body, making sure you examine even those hard-to-see places. Although uncommon, melanomas can occur in places that are not exposed to sun. You may need to enlist someone to help you examine your scalp.
What you’re looking for in a self-examination is anything out of the ordinary, including changes in moles, irregular discolorations, and lesions that don’t heal. The self-exam is an important step in becoming familiar with the markings on your body to more easily recognize changes.
The most common areas for melanoma to occur are the trunk and limbs, and most often in those places exposed to the sun, but it can also occur on the hands, feet or mucous linings located anywhere on the body. For more details on how to perform a skin self-examination, the American Cancer Society has a helpful information gallery.
We recommend that you perform a monthly skin self-examination and make a yearly appointment with your dermatologist for a skin cancer screening.
Screen with Your Dermatologist Yearly
Even if you are performing monthly skin self-examinations, it’s important to see your dermatologist yearly for a screening. Blue Ocean Dermatology and other qualified professional dermatologists in Volusia County are trained to spot inconsistencies that the patient might not catch on their own. As with all cancers, the earlier the detection of melanoma, the better the chances of survival.
Research suggests that nearly 90% of melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. We say it all the time, but we live in beautiful Florida, where the sun shines year-round. We spend more time on the beach and enjoying the ocean than most other places in the country. That’s why we need to be particularly conscious and sensible when it comes to preventing skin damage through UV exposure.
Together with your dermatologist, you are the front line of defense against melanomas. We are always here to answer your skin care questions at our locations in Port Orange, Winter Park, Okeechobee, and at our mobile dermatology center.