Melanoma Awareness

By Brian Kobienia, MD, FACS on May 01, 2011

   May is Melanoma Awareness Month.

 Although melanoma only account for 4-5% of all skin cancers it accounts for the majority of deaths related to skin cancer.  Over 46,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma yearly.  Ten thousand people die of melanoma yearly.  Typically melanoma is found on the head, neck and back of men and on the legs of women.  Sun exposure remains the number one cause of melanoma.  It is a cancer of the color producing cells of the skin, the melanocytes.   This skin cancer is unique in that it can metastasize (spread).  If caught early melanoma is curable.  A vigilant eye is key.  Check your skin then remind someone you love to check theirs.


Remember the ABC’s(and DE’s) of moles.

A: asymmetry – be concerned if one half of the mole looks different than the other
B: border irregularity –mole edges that are not smooth
C: color – varied from one area to another
D: diameter – if the size is over 6mm (size of pencil eraser) or it changes
E: evolve – if the moles changes 
s: sunblock – use it

Where do you find it?

Typically, melanoma is thought of as a skin cancer.  Truth be told, it starts from the melanin producing cell of the body.  These melanocytes are found in the highest amount in the skin, but also are found in the eye and other tissues like the colon.  It’s true.  You can get melanoma of the eye, vagina or colon.  So inspection is important.  That means checking your skin but also seeing your eye doctor,gynecologist and getting  your colonoscopy.


Surgical resection remains the best treatment.  Removal of the cancerous mole and assessment of the lymph node drainage is the current best practice of melanoma care.  There a no chemotherapy regimens that dramatically increase survival in melanoma.  Immune therapy with interferon or antibodie  is used late in the treatment process, but remains suboptimal.  The best treatment is prevention.  Use your sunblock!

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