Skin Cancer Screening Saves Lives!
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, accounting for more than 75% of all skin cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of diagnosis of Melanoma in the U.S. is almost one per hour.
Melanoma is currently the number ONE cancer in young adults ages 25-29 and the sixth most common cancer in the US.
Early detection of melanoma can significantly reduce both morbidity and mortality. The risk of dying from the disease is directly related to how deep the melanoma cells have penetrated the skin. The cells are able to go deeper through the layers of skin with time. Therefore, earlier detection saves lives.
Fortunately, unlike most other cancers, since skin cancers start on the skin, they are most often readily visible to the patient and the examiner. This is with the exception of rare melanomas that can start in the retina of the eyes.
Patient skin self-examination, regular physician-directed total-body skin exams and patient education are the keys to early detection.
Studies have shown that when melanomas are detected through a skin examination by the physician, they are statistically detected at a significantly earlier stage and are thinner, and therefore have a much higher chance of cure and survival. A recent study (Aitken, et al) concluded that total body skin examination reduced the patients’ risk by 40% for deep melanomas which are responsible for mortality.
Thinner melanomas are at an earlier clinical stage, leading to less morbidity and mortality. According to the guidelines of the American Joint Committee on Cancer, tumor depth is one of the most important factors in staging. Stage 0 melanomas, which are melanomas only limited to the epidermis layer of the skin, have an average 5-year survival rate of 100%. For stage 4, this rate drops to 7-19%. Early detection of thinner melanomas and the corresponding lower chance of metastasis have a significant impact on both morbidity and mortality.
Highly trained dermatologists are ideally suited for performing total body skin examination, as they have the knowledge required to differentiate the varying signs and symptoms of different skin cancers and noncancerous lesions. The dermatology residency with intense study in the evaluation and management of skin cancers and other skin diseases provides the necessary background training for a physician to become an expert in early detection. During the skin examination, we look for unusual presentations of melanoma, and examine areas that escape your field of view, including the scalp and soles of the feet.
The mnemonic ABCDE: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter >6 mm, Evolving is important to remember. Evolving refers to moles and growths changing in other ways such as becoming elevated, painful or ulcerated, itching, burning, or bleeding.
The most effective way of minimizing the morbidity and mortality from melanomas or any other skin cancer is through regular screening and early detection by a trained dermatologist. Please consult us if any suspicious growths are noted.