Melanoma—Early Detection and Prevention Saves Lives
Whether it affects a specific individual or a close loved one, cancer is a condition that touches everyone in some capacity. When we talk about feet, an important cancer to understand is malignant melanoma. Catching this disease early improves the success rate of treatment, but preventing it in the first place is even better.
What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is widely-regarded as the most serious form of skin cancer and is often found in human cells (melanocytes) that create melanin. In rare occasions, it may develop in eyes and internal organs. Melanin is responsible for pigmentation and is the reason skin darkens when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light.
With overexposure to UV radiation—either by short, intense bursts or lower levels absorbed over an extended period—the melanocytes sustain DNA damage, which leads to masses of cancerous cells. At this time, researchers are not entirely sure exactly how the DNA becomes damaged and causes melanoma, but the link between UV radiation and melanoma is quite evident.
What Are the Symptoms of Melanoma?
Early detection for melanoma is integral for effectively treating the condition. The mortality rate of this particular cancer is rather high for the simple reason that it is usually discovered in a late stage. With this in mind, it is essential to know that the primary sign of this cancer is irregular moles. We will discuss those momentarily, but note that a dark spot visible under a toenail might be malignant melanoma. More likely, it is simply blood pooled in the nail bed, but this situation still warrants a visit to our office for confirmation.
How Can I Recognize an Irregular Mole?
Whereas some moles are fine, unusual ones might be cancerous. When you want to easily identify an irregular mole, remember your ABC’s:
- A – Asymmetrical Shape. If each half of a mole looks different from the other, it is worth investigating. Symmetry—where two halves look the same, except reversed (like in a mirror)—is what you hope to observe.
- B – Irregular Border. A mole that has a blurred, notched, or ragged border should be examined by a professional.
- C – Changes in Color. As opposed to the solid, singular color of a normal mole, a cancerous mole typically has multiple colors in an uneven distribution.
- D – Diameter. Size matters when it comes to moles – anything greater than 5 or 6 millimeters (about the size of pencil’s eraser) should raise a red flag.
- E – Evolving. Non-cancerous moles are consistent and will, more or less, stay around the same size and shape. If you have a mole that changes color, shape, or size, it is cause for concern.
If you have a mole that is round or oval-shaped, smaller than the size of a pencil eraser, has a distinct border, and is uniform in color—often brown, tan, or black—then you probably don’t have anything to worry about. Almost everyone has between 10 and 45 normal moles found throughout their bodies.
Are There Preventative Measures for Melanoma?
When it comes to melanoma, the good news is that viable prevention measures can decrease your likelihood of having to deal with it. Most are centered on avoiding, or limiting, exposure to harmful UV rays, including:
- Avoid direct sunlight between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and protective clothing all year round.
- Do not use tanning beds.
- Examine your skin on a regular basis. (This won’t prevent melanoma, but it will help you identify the cancer early.)
When Should I Make an Appointment?
Early detection and treatment is your best bet for a successful recovery from skin cancer. As soon as you note an irregular mole, contact our office for the soonest possible appointment. We will assess the situation and take a skin biopsy to accurately diagnose whether or not it is cancerous. When the results come back, we will review them together and determine a treatment plan.
Dallas Podiatry Works is your partner in foot health every step of the way. Schedule an appointment at either our Plano or Dallas, TX offices by calling us toll free at (888) 716-5283, or use our online form today.
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