The most deadly type of skin cancer, melanoma will take the lives of over 9,000 men and women in the U.S. this year.
According to figures from the American Cancer Society, over 178,500 cases of Melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Around half of these cases will be invasive forms of melanoma, and an estimated 9,320 people will lose their lives to the disease in 2018 alone.
“A person currently dies of melanoma in the U.S. every 60 minutes,” reveals Dr. Temp Patterson, a physician from Burley, Idaho. “Equally shocking is that cases of melanoma have risen by over 50% in the last decade alone.”
With this increase in instances of melanoma, despite advances in cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment, the disease is still killing as many people as it did over 30 years ago. “It’s with this in mind that everyone should be familiar with the warning signs,” suggests Dr. Patterson.
Thankfully, as the doctor explains, the disease is often highly treatable if caught early. “Survival rates are good where the disease is caught early, and treatment is prompt,” points out Dr. Patterson. “However, where diagnosis and treatment are delayed, even by as little as 12 weeks, the risk of dying increases by as much as a third.”
In an effort to help people identify possible cases of melanoma, Dr. Patterson suggests using the American Cancer Society’s ‘ABCDE’ rule. “The ABCDE rule gives us five potential warning signs for melanoma,” he explains. “These are asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving.”
Asymmetry refers to where one part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
In terms of border, cause for concern should be edges which are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred. Similarly, if the color isn’t uniform or the same all over, or includes different shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue, there should also be cause for concern.
Regarding diameter, Dr. Patterson points out that if a mole or other area of discoloration is larger than a quarter of an inch across, around the size of the end of a pencil, it should be checked out. “Lastly,” says the physician, “is evolving, or any change in the appearance of an existing mole.”
Other possible warning signs include a sore which does not heal and the spread of pigment from the edge of a spot or mole into surrounding skin.
Furthermore, in relation to existing moles, redness or swelling, a change in sensation—such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain—and a change in the surface of a mole—such as scaliness, oozing, or bleeding—can all be warning signs of melanoma.
“If an existing mole begins to exhibit any of the above, or otherwise changes in appearance, it’s important to see a physician as soon as possible,” emphasizes Dr. Patterson.
“Doing so,” he adds, wrapping up, “could potentially save your life.”