Pale is the New Tan, Part 3: Melanoma Awareness

Posted on June 1, 2013

Yesterday was the last day of Melanoma Awareness Month. By now (and especially if you’ve read my last two blog posts) you probably know all about the importance of prevention and protection against the sun’s damaging rays. But there is one last step – getting checked!

Protecting your skin can decrease your chances in developing melanoma, but sometimes people who rarely go in the sun or who have fair skin, can also develop melanoma. Melanoma can sometimes be genetic. So it’s extremely important to get checked by a dermatologist every year for any suspicious looking spots. You can also do self-spot checks throughout the year to stay on top of any new developments.

Do you know what to look for?

In keeping an eye out for melanoma, you want to follow the ABCDEFG rule. That’s right. It’s not just the ABCs anymore. (Note: the lesions shown on the left are melanomas; on the right are benign, normal moles). All photos courtesy of TheSkinCancerMelanoma.com

A – Asymmetry… the skin lesion will be asymmetric
melanoma - a

 

 

 

B – Border… the lesion’s border is irregular
melanoma - b

 

 

 

C – Color… the lesion can be more than one color (e.g., light brown, dark brown, black)
melanoma - v


 

 

D – Diameter… a lesion with a diameter greater than 6mm (about the size of the eraser on a pencil)
melanoma - d


 

 

E – Evolving… the lesion will enlarge or evolve (change) over time. E also stands for elevated, where the lesion is elevated above the surface of the rest of the skin

F – Firm… lesion is firm to the touch

G – Growing… it has grown rapidly in a short time (a few months or weeks)

Doing regular spot checks on yourself can aid in early detection of a suspicious-looking mole. EARLY DETECTION IS KEY when it comes to melanoma. Although it is the most rare form of skin cancer, it is the most deadly, because it can spread rapidly to other areas of the body.

Find a dermatologist you trust

Ask for referrals from friends or doctors you trust to refer you to a good dermatologist in your area. I often hear patients say they are afraid the dermatologist will leave them with a horrible scar in a visible area. Yes, this is a very unsettling concern. But remembering that the first way to avoid getting a scar from a biopsy is to protect yourself in the first place! Educate your friends and your family (especially teenagers) on the importance of sun protection so they don’t have to face a scar from biopsy later in life.

But in finding a dermatologist who you trust – you should feel confident that they will be aggressive when necessary but won’t just cut everything they see.

I recently went to see Dr. James Connors in St. Petersburg, FL earlier this month for my first spot check. I will visit him once a year to keep an eye on any skin. At my visit, he found a freckle/mole near my collarbone. It was the only spot that made him raise an eyebrow. Being that the spot was in a very visible area below my neck, he didn’t want to leave me with an awful scar. So he talked to me about MelaFind.

What is MelaFind?

MelaFind is a new, FDA-approved medical device for dermatologists that can aid in detecting melanoma at its most curable stage. MelaFind uses 10 different wavelengths of light to “see” 2.5 mm deep into the skin, giving the dermatologist more insight into a particular suspicious looking mole. It analyzes the mole and gives a reading to your dermatologist indicating whether the mole has irregular growth patterns under the skin (not visible to the eye).

Photo courtesy of MelaFind on Facebook

Photo courtesy of MelaFind on Facebook

MelaFind is not a screening device that will guarantee whether a mole is melanoma or not. It is a tool to use on peculiar looking moles to provide more information to the dermatologist before a decision is made to biopsy or not. The great thing about the MelaFind is you can keep the information it gives on a particular spot, and have it checked 6-12 months later and see if there have been any changes. It is a great quantitative way to keep an eye on your mole. In the past, we have had to rely on photos or the human eye to see if there have been any changes. But MelaFind gives actual numbers to be compared on a future date to see if the mole has changed in any way.

Dr. Connors asked me if I would like to try the MelaFind, leaving it up to me. Since it’s a new device, it is not yet covered by insurance so it was a $45 fee. To me, it was worth it to do. He took a reading of my mole, and in 6 months I will go back for another reading to see if there have been any changes. Honestly, I think I have had this spot my whole life – but you can never be too cautious! Plus, I was mostly just curious about this new device and wanted to share the experience with my blog readers! See what I do for you guys? J

You can find a dermatologist in your area who uses MelaFind. Just visit MelaFind.com.

I hope this blog series gave you some insight and knowledge into skin, the sun and best practices for protecting your skin’s health! If there are any other skin topics you are interested in learning more about, please comment! Thanks for reading!