Devin C. Flaherty, DO, PhD, Valley Health Surgical Oncology
Malignant melanoma, along with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma,
are the three most common types of skin cancer. Melanoma remains the most
dangerous as it aggressively spreads to other organs in the body. The
American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 87,000 new cases
of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2017, and rates of diagnosis have been
rising over the past 30 years. Melanoma most commonly occurs on the chest
and back in men, and on the legs in women.
What to Watch For
The most effective way to watch for melanoma and other skin cancers is
regular skin evaluation by a medical practitioner. Patients need to pay
close attention to any new skin lesions or moles, or established moles
or freckles that are changing in the following ways:
- Development of asymmetric borders
- Pigment changes
- Increases in diameter.
Other clinical signs of potentially dangerous skin lesions include itching
or bleeding of a known freckle or mole.
The most common and effective treatment for melanoma, basal cell, and squamous
skin cancer is excision, which is where a provider will use special tools
to remove the lesion(s) from the cells.
Melanoma requires a wider excision, and referral to a surgical oncologist
is often necessary. Your provider might also recommend surgical biopsy
of lymph nodes because when melanoma spreads, it travels in the lymphatic
system towards the body and other organs. Systemic therapy may be used
to treat advanced stage melanoma that has spread to the lymph nodes or
other organs. Immunotherapy is a rapidly evolving treatment in the field
of melanoma that may provide patients enhanced and prolonged responses.
Limiting environmental exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is the most important
practice to prevent the development of melanoma. The sun, tanning beds,
and sun lamps all transmit UV rays, and protecting your skin from the
damaging effects of UV rays can be accomplished through the use of sun
screen (high SPF), protective and covering clothing, and hats. Establishing
routine care with a dermatologist affords patients regular screening and
early detection of skin cancers.
Reference: The American Cancer Society -