Health Matters: Knowing What Melanoma Looks Like

Melanoma is the deadliest of skin cancers

HEALTH MATTERS–May is melanoma awareness month.

It’s the deadliest of skin cancers.

School is almost out, which means there’s more time to be out in the sun and more dangers for your skin.

But summer isn’t the only time to be concerned.

Doctors recommend protecting yourself from the sun whenever you’re outside.

“Most of the melanoma is from ultraviolet radiation exposure,” said Dr. Michael Blakinship, who is an Essentia Health dermatologist.

Being out in the sun brings danger to your skin all year round.

“Everyone is at risk, even deeply pigmented people like of direct African origin,” said Dr. Blakinship.

Recognizing changes in your moles can help you identify if one is cancerous.

It’s recommended to pay attention to its size, color, shape and irregular borders.

“They look like moles when they start off,” explained Dr. Blakinship. “They’re either patches, or bumps of skin. They can be flesh toned to brown to dark brown to black.”

Dr. Blankinship said many things on our skin are probably nothing.

Documenting a mole can help you decide if it’s abnormal.

“If you see something you think you are worried about, take a picture of it, measure it and then keep an eye on it for the next month,” said Dr. Blankinship.

It’s also important to pay attention to how it feels.

“If it’s becoming symptomatic for no reason, painful, itchy bleeding spontaneously, those are probably more sensitive and specific indicators of a potential problem,” explained Dr. Blankinship.

If you do notice anything, it’s best to see a physician early.

Melanoma is extremely dangerous because it spreads.

“When it begins to invade other tissues, it becomes metastatic,” said Dr. Blankinship. “It can go just about anywhere and at that point it starts to become likely of killing you as well as causing other morbidity.”

That’s why this dermatologist says to protect yourself all year long, even if it’s cloudy.

“Using sun protective clothing, using sunscreens appropriately and then just seeking shade,” he advised. “Not being out directly in the sun.”

Dr. Blankinship recommended putting sunscreen on anywhere that will be exposed.

He also recommended staying away from tanning beds.

For more information on identifying a cancerous mole click here.