By: Dr. Mariana Atanasovski, Dermatologist at Allure Medical
May is melanoma awareness month. So how much do you know about the deadliest skin cancer? Although new breakthroughs in the treatment of melanoma are being made, the latest and greatest treatment options typically only add months to survival. The best treatment is still prevention and early detection!
Melanoma is caused by intense, intermittent sunlight in patients genetically at risk. You are at higher risk of developing melanoma if you have certain risk factors – click here for my blog highlighting those risk factors and how to spot possible melanomas using the ABCDEs.
Melanoma isn’t always a dark obvious spot either. The “amelanotic” variety means it does not have to be pigmented. These melanomas usually look like skin colored or light pink bumps on the skin. Here are some examples of obvious and not so obvious melanomas.
Be sure to check your body at least monthly for new or changing growths and moles. Recruit a spouse or family member to help look at your back (they may also be able to help you apply sunscreen there too). If you have any skin concerns, always see a Board Certified Dermatologist as soon as possible.
Once melanoma is detected, then what? Well, the earlier melanoma is detected, the better. The depth of the melanoma under the microscope, called breslow depth, helps determines the stage of the disease and what is needed next. When the breslow depth hits a certain number, then checking your lymph nodes (the glands that filter out the body’s nutrients and waste) is indicated to check if the melanoma has spread anywhere else in the body. Knowing if the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes or to any organs is important for staging, treatment options, and overall prognosis.
Various treatments options are available for melanoma, with more in the pipeline. They range from excision (or cutting out) of the melanoma to targeted chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation, and clinical trials.
However, as great as the available techniques are, 2 out of 3 patients who have negative lymph nodes at the time of diagnosis go on to have metastatic disease. How can we identify these individuals who are at higher risk, need closer monitoring, and possibly more aggressive treatment despite what the current tools tell us? New technology using genetic markers have made their way onto the melanoma forefront to answer just that. Using a gene expression test, a melanoma tissue sample is tested for the level of expression of several genes that are found to be more likely to develop metastatic melanoma. As a result, a patient’s sample is grouped into low-risk and high-risk categories with relatively good accuracy. As with anything new, melanoma genetic testing may take time to develop its full potential and will likely need a larger database of patients to increase its accuracy
With everything we know about melanoma, using sunscreen diligently and practicing safe sun habits seems so simple, doesn’t it?
To help reduce your risk of skin cancer even more, check out Allure Medical’s Skin Care Pro Package >