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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a dual-board-certified dermatologist with over 90 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Five Things You Should Know About Melanoma

Updated: 9 hours ago


Summer is at its peak, and so is the sun! Well, if you are reading this sitting outside right now, soaking in the Sun to get that perfect tan, this blog is for you. Although the moon has been perpetually defamed for its 'dark side (courtesy of Pink Floyd and their record-breaker album), let's not forget that the sun also has a dark side- ultraviolet (UV) radiation.


UV radiations are to skin what kryptonite is to Superman if Superman didn't know what kryptonite could do to him. Putting aside some ultraviolet light humor, let's address the problems that unchecked exposure to UV radiation could do to our bodies.


UV radiations can damage our skin and accelerate the formation of wrinkles, loose skin, and skin cancers like malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.


WHAT IS MELANOMA?

Melanoma is one of the deadliest skin cancers. It arises from the pigment-producing cells, melanocytes.


WHO IS AT RISK FOR MELANOMA?

Well, although anyone can develop melanoma, it is people with fair skin, blond hair, and green-to-blue eyes who are at the highest risk for developing melanoma. People who spend a lot of time under the Sun or those with a family history of malignant melanoma or a weakened immune system are also at an increased risk. Regardless, it can affect people of any age, skin color, and gender.


MOLE OR MELANOMA?

Often, to an untrained eye, a melanoma can mimic an innocent mole for all means and purposes. Well, if you are concerned about any odd-looking mole, it is essential to consult a dermatologist at the earliest. Since, when caught early, melanomas can be treated successfully.

Melanomas are notoriously known to develop in preexisting benign moles. Often new benign moles keep developing only until the age of 40 years. So, if you have recently developed a new mole after your sweet 40, get it checked!


MELANOMA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

Sadly, melanomas are usually asymptomatic and, therefore, seldom spotted by patients on their own. Melanomas are the allegorical ravening wolves that come to you in sheep's clothing. But, thanks to your friendly digital-neighborhood dermatologist (me), with the following soft pointers, you can differentiate a suspicious ugly-duckling mole (likely to be a melanoma) from a benign mole.


One of the easiest ways to remember melanoma's clinical features is to go alphabetically- ABCDE.


A for Asymmetry

Unlike moles which are regularly shaped and symmetrical melanomas are asymmetrical. This means that one half of a melanoma won't resemble the other half.


B for Border

While moles have regular and well-defined borders, melanomas have ill-defined and irregular or scalloped borders. The borders of a melanoma seemingly merge into the skin around it.

C for Color

Moles are light to dark brown. But melanomas are much more colorful. Melanomas display a wide array of colors ranging from tan, brown, black, blue, red, and white.

D for Diameter

If your mole has a size larger than a pencil eraser's diameter (around 6 mm) then get it checked.


E for Evolution

Melanomas look different from the other moles on the body, They tend to change their color, shape, and size constantly.



PREVENTION OF MELANOMA

In short, melanomas are these ugly-looking, discolored, shapeshifter giants out for your life that can be smothered in the cradle by something as simple as sunscreen. Use a broad spectrum SPF 30-60 Sunscreen when you are out in the daytime, even on cloudy days. Because UV rays can very easily penetrate the clouds.


The sun unleashes its most ferocious rage on our skin between 10 am to 4 pm in summer. So, if you are planning an outdoor activity, plan it in the mornings or evenings. Other preventive measures include wearing protective clothing, using UV-protectant sunglasses to protect the eyes (because melanoma also grows in the eyes), and avoiding tanning beds.


And lastly, examine your skin regularly for any new moles, freckles, or skin growth. If you see any of the above-mentioned signs, consult a dermatologist right away.

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