Melanoma Monday is the first Monday in May. This campaign, sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology, helps raise public awareness about malignant melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer, and encourages early detection through screening. As the month of May is also National Skin Cancer Awareness month, free skin cancer screenings can also be found nationwide all month long.
Malignant melanoma arises from skin growths known as nevi, or "moles" as they are more commonly known. The vast majority of moles are visible on the skin, and brown in color. Rarely, moles may be pink or red, and there are even moles which can be hidden internally, such as at the back of the eye.
Fortunately, moles don't change into melanoma overnight. Gradually moles will go through a series of changes (some faster than others) known as dysplasia. The greater the degree of dysplasia, the more likely the mole may turn into melanoma.
Early detection is key, as melanoma is almost 100% curable if discovered early. Famous people who have survived melanoma include Troy Aikman, Sam Donaldson and Senator John McCain.
While easy to detect, many continue to ignore changes they see in their moles. According to The Melanoma Research Foundation, one American dies of malignant melanoma every hour.
While the American Academy of Dermatology doesn't expect the general public to be home dermatologists, there are 5 signs to know that can save your life. These are the official ABCD's (and now I'd like to unofficially add an E) of melanoma.
A: Asymmetry. The mole is not completely even in appearance.
B: Border. The margins should be even and smooth, without ratty or projecting edges.
C: Circumference. The mole should be nice and round, without jagged or sharp edges
D: Diameter. The size of the mole should not be more than 6mm measured across the mole. This is the size of a pencil eraser.
E: Evolving (changes) - Any changes over time in size, shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (bleeding, scaling, inflammation), and shades of color.
Other signs to pay close attention to include rapid mole growth, formation of a sore, and itching or bleeding within the mole.
The above signs and symptoms do not automatically mean the mole is malignant or even dysplastic. But, these are definitely a reason to seek out a dermatology evaluation.
This May, consider partaking in a free skin cancer screening. Take the time to pay attention to changing or symptomatic moles and seek medical attention should you find any of the ABCDE’s of melanoma. These steps might just save your life.
For more information on skin cancer detection, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology.