NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s the first Monday in May and that means it’s “Melanoma Monday.”
Melanoma is the least common skin cancer, but it is by far the deadliest, and on the rise.
CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez has the information you need to know about how to detect it and prevent it.
Skin cancer is by far the most commonly diagnosed cancer. It’s also the most curable because, unlike other cancers, it’s easily detectable at an early stage. They’re right out there in the open. And that includes deadly melanoma, but you have to pay attention to what’s happening on your skin.
“My first melanoma was right here on my cheek,” patient David Lipman said.
But a combination of missed diagnoses and procrastination on Lipman’s part meant that melanoma wasn’t diagnosed for years.
“My doctor was panicked when he saw the report. He for sure thought it was going to be other places,” Lipman said.
Lipman was lucky. The melanoma had not spread, but it took a large tissue graft from his back to repair the defect left from the melanoma removal. Eventually, he was referred to Dr. Hooman Khorasani, chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at the Mount Sinai Health System who’s been monitoring Lipman, including a second melanoma on his back.
Khorasani explained why melanoma is so deadly.
“It has an ability to spread to other tissues, much easier than other skin cancers,” Khorasani said.
The raising melanoma rate is partly attributed to continued use of tanning beds, which increases melanoma risk by 75 percent, and also due to unprotected sun exposure. Five lifetime sunburns doubles your chances of developing melanoma.
Then there’s climate change thinning the ozone layer, allowing more UV radiation to reach the Earth’s surface.
The Academy of Dermatology suggests you watch for the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma on your moles.
Asymmetry — half the mole is different than the other half.
Borders are irregular.
Color varies within the mole.
Diameter of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
Evolving — the mole changing in shape, size or color.
If you have a skin spot that has any of those characteristics, get it checked by a dermatologist. And even they can sometimes be fooled. That’s why a simple biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosis of any skin cancer.
And, of course, apply sun screen early and often, and stay away from tanning beds.