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Blog by Sherry Mistro-Henn

Medically reviewed by Dr. Kent ShihMelanoma_300x486_Black

This year, more than 135,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed, and almost 75,000 of these will be malignant (spread to other parts of the body). The rates have been rising over the past 30 years.

Melanoma is cancer of the skin. It is the most common of all cancers. Discovered and treated early, melanoma is almost always curable. Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread to other organs, making it more difficult to treat.

Causes of melanoma include several genetic and environmental factors. One risk factor is exposure to UVA and UVB rays, both blistering sunburns during one’s youth and continued exposure as an adult. Tanning booths/beds increase the risk of melanoma and play a part in the rise of cases over the past three decades.

Treatment for melanoma can include surgery, which is essentially the removal of the tumor and surrounding tissue. If testing of the tissue indicates that the cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be necessary.

New chemotherapy options emerging for the treatment of melanoma are immunotherapy (which causes your own immune system to fight the disease) and targeted (effecting the actual gene mutation of the cancer cell) drugs.

Prevention of some skin cancers involve protecting skin from UV rays. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen or protective clothing should be worn when outside, even in cool temperatures. Tanning beds and booths should be avoided completely. Regular self-examination of your skin each month, checking for changes in moles, marks and freckles, is another important habit to adopt. Any moles or marks of concern should be brought to your doctor’s attention. It is a good idea to have checkups (at least annually) with a physician to monitor all skin changes. Early detection of melanoma is important for successful treatment.