skin cancer examMay is Melanoma Awareness Month, which gives us an opportunity to shine a light on the most dangerous form of skin cancer one can have. Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, making up just 1% of skin cancer diagnoses. However, it is also the most deadly, causing an estimated 6,850 deaths a year in the United States alone.

The specialists at RI Skin Doc and Rejuvaderm want our patients to understand the dangers of this deadly condition, know the importance of skin cancer prevention, and feel empowered to identify potential melanoma so they can seek treatment as soon as possible. Read our melanoma awareness FAQ to learn more:

Understand the Causes of Melanoma

The exact cause of melanoma, like most other cancers, is unknown. However, the most common risk factor identified by specialists is extensive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This can come about from too much time in the sun or in a tanning booth; however, those who are exposed over a short period of time are more at risk for melanoma than those who are consistently and daily exposed to the sun.

Know Your Myths From Your Facts

Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about melanoma that cause people not to take preventative measures and downplay their own risks. For example, some people believe that young people and those with darker skin can’t get melanoma. In reality, although the risks are somewhat greater for older adults and those with fair skin, anyone can get melanoma and must protect themselves from the sun accordingly. In fact, melanoma is the most common cancer among patients between 25 and 29 years of age. Additionally, melanoma isn’t as easily removed and treated as you may believe, and having a great deal of moles (especially irregularly-shaped ones) can in fact increase your risk. This is why frequent self-examinations and immediate action is vital to catching this cancer early.

Know How to Identify Melanoma

As with all cancers, the sooner treatment begins, the better your chances are of being able to remove it. The ability to identify a potential melanoma spot is the first step to ensuring that you can show it to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. If you have any freckles or moles, be sure to check them regularly for any changes in size and texture. When performing a self-examination for melanoma, follow the ABCD method:

  • Asymmetry: Melanoma (malignant) lesions may be irregular in shape (asymmetrical). Benign (nonmalignant) moles are typically round (symmetrical).
  • Border: Melanoma lesions may have irregular borders (ragged or notched edges). Benign moles usually have smooth, even borders.
  • Color: Melanoma lesions may contain many shades of brown, blue, or black. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown.
  • Diameter: Melanoma lesions are often more than 6 millimeters in diameter (about the size of an eraser on a pencil). Benign moles are usually less than 6 millimeters in diameter.

Practice Prevention and Protect Your Skin

While skin cancer prevention involves a multitude of precautions, the skin specialists at RI Skin Doc want to emphasize the importance of one preventative measure in particular: using SPF sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater sunscreen can lower your risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent. In addition to using SPF, it’s also helpful to avoid too much exposure to UV rays altogether -- including from tanning beds -- and limit your time in direct sunlight if at all possible. 

Skin cancer awareness isn’t just for the month of May. These educational and preventative measures should be taken year-round to protect yourself from melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. If you’re concerned about a spot on your skin, don’t wait -- schedule an appointment with your dermatologist and have it examined as soon as possible.

With ongoing safety precautions in place, RI Skin Doc IS OPEN for in-person visits by appointment only. Rejuvaderm MediSpa will remain closed, but we hope to reopen by 6/1. If you have any questions about our COVID-19 response, visit our website.