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Facts about melanoma


What is melanoma?

According to the American Cancer Society, cancer of the skin is the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for about 3 percent of skin cancer cases, but it causes the most skin cancer deaths.

The number of new cases of melanoma in the United States is on the rise. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007, there will be more than 59,000 new cases of melanoma. About 8,110 people will die of the disease this year.

Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes. Because most of these cells still make melanin, melanoma tumors are often brown or black. But this is not always the case, as melanomas can also have no color. Melanoma most often appears on the trunk of fair-skinned men and on the lower legs of fair-skinned women, but it can appear other places, too. While having dark skin lowers the risk of melanoma, it does not mean that a person with dark skin will never develop melanoma.

Melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages. But it is likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but it is far more serious.

Symptoms of melanoma?

The “ABCD rule” can help you tell a normal mole from an abnormal mole. Moles that have any of these traits should be checked by your doctor.

ABCD stands for:

Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half.

Border irregularity: The edges of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or notched.

Color: The color over the mole is not the same all over. There may be shades of tan, brown or black, and sometimes patches of red, blue or white.

Diameter: The mole is larger than the size of a pencil eraser (although doctors are now finding more melanomas that are smaller).

It is also important to know the other signs of melanoma, including changes in size, shape or color of a mole. Some melanomas do not fit the “rules” above, so you should show your doctor anything that you are unsure about.

How to prevent melanoman Limit UV exposure.
• Protect your skin with clothing.
• Seek shade.
• Use sunscreen, preferably one with at least an SPF of 15 or higher.
• Wear sunglasses.
• Protect children as they tend to burn more easily.
• Avoid other sources of UV light, such as tanning beds and sun lamps.
• Check for abnormal moles and have them removed.
• Consider genetic counseling.

Source: American Cancer Society

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