Spotting Melanoma

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,716
    Tim Turnham, Ph.D., of the Melanoma Research Foundation explains how to check your skin for signs of melanoma.

    Tim Turnham: Hi! I am Tim Turnham with the Melanoma Research Foundation. Today, I am talking about melanoma. Now I will want to discuss how to spot this disease when it's most treatable.

    If melanoma is caught at its earliest stage, it can be removed with an outpatient surgical procedure and no further treatment is necessary. If it is not removed early, the outcome for patients can be quite sobering. But melanoma is not always easy to spot.

    Kevin Stenstrom: Well, I really had no symptoms for melanoma except for the mole. I didn't have any coughing of blood or bad headaches or anything that would lead me to believe that I was sick in anyway. I think that's one of the real dangers about melanoma is that it can start off seemingly very benign by having a discolored mole or an oddly shaped mole on your body that you may think is nothing when it turns out to be something fairly serious.

    Tim Turnham: We all know that we should take regular steps to insure our health, exercise, breast self exam, blood pressure checks, all of these are things that are part of a healthy lifestyle. Checking your skin is simply a part of that practice. You should know your body, and pay attention if something seems wrong.

    Look for spots that are different from other spots on your body. Some people call this the ugly duckling approach. Just as one of the ducklings in that story looked different, in the same way you should mark any places on your skin that looked different from others.

    Dr. Lynn Schuchter: What prompts an evaluation is that there has been a change in a mole or a new mole and that leads to a biopsy. That is a simple procedure where a surgeon or dermatologist or a family practitioner takes the mole off or the suspicious skin lesion and a biopsy is performed. That's how melanoma is generally diagnosed.

    Tim Turnham: Since two-thirds of melanomas are tied to UV exposure, particular attention should be paid to areas that are exposed to the sun. Don't forget the scalp. When your hair is wet, the sun can beat down on the scalp and this is not an area where people think to use sunscreen.

    Men tend to develop melanoma on the chest and the back, women on the arms and legs. But still melanoma can occur anywhere; in the eye, under toenails and fingernails, in the rectum, on the labia, virtually anywhere. In general, you should be concerned about spots that have some of the characteristics that we call the A, B, C, D, Es of melanoma.

    A, a mole that is asymmetric or uneven in shape. B, a spot whose border is uneven on ragged. C, the color of the spot is varied. D, diameter is larger than a pencil eraser. E, it is important to pay attention to any spot that is evolving, getting larger or darker or even lighter. If you have a lot of moles, you may want to have pictures taken of your skin so you can better track any changes or anything new.

    If you want to learn more, check out our other videos about melanoma including how it's diagnosed.