In January, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, took to Instagram to share that months after her breast cancer diagnosis, she had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer. The 64-year-old Duke of York was married to Prince Andrew for 10 years before divorcing in 1996. “I believe that my experience points to the importance of checking the size, shape, color and texture and the emergence of new moles. May be a sign of melanoma and urge anyone reading this to be diligent,” Prince Andrew’s ex-wife noted in the post. Dr. Harshit Shah, Associate Consultant-Surgical Oncology, Fortis Hospital Kalyan, shares his insights on malignant melanoma.
What is malignant melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that occurs when melanocytes, the cells responsible for the skin’s tan or brown color, undergo uncontrolled growth, says Dr. Harshit Shah. “Although melanoma is less common than certain other skin cancers, it poses a greater risk due to early detection and high likelihood of spreading to other parts of the body without treatment. Timely detection is essential for successful treatment, as advanced melanoma can be difficult to manage. And to other organs.” can metastasize,” says Dr. Shah.
Melanoma can occur on skin and mucosal surfaces, and the skin is the most common. “It can arise anywhere on the skin, appearing either as new moles or arising from existing moles, often exhibiting irregular borders, uneven color and changes in size and shape. These melanomas are more common in people with lighter skin tones. In men trunk (chest and back) and other common areas along women’s legs, neck and face. Not all nevus or moles tend to turn into cancer, but only those that change require a biopsy to confirm whether they are nevus or whether the mole has turned into malignant melanoma,” Doctor shared.
Early symptoms of malignant melanoma
An early indicator of melanoma is a new skin rash or a change in the size, shape, or color of a scar. Another notable sign, says Dr Shah, is a scar that differs in appearance from all other skin blemishes, commonly called the “ugly duckling mark”. To help identify potential early signs, the ABCDE rule serves as a useful guide. Dr. Shah explains:
Inequality: A mole or scar exhibits an asymmetrical shape, where one half does not mirror the other half.
Border Irregularities: The edges of a mole or nevus are not clearly defined and may appear pitted, grooved or blurred.
Color Variation: Nevus may exhibit changes in color, with changes within the nevus or changes over time. Various shades of brown, black or other colors may be observed.
Diameter: Melanomas often exceed the diameter of a normal mole. Although size is not the only determinant, any mole greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser) warrants examination.
Height: Monitor the nevus for changes in size, shape, color, or height. Any sudden elevation of the nevus above the skin surface with ulceration should be taken into account.
Melanoma: A risk factor for skin cancer
Dr. Harshit Shah lists specific risk factors for melanoma:
1. Multiple moles: Although most moles are usually harmless, people with more moles are at increased risk of developing melanoma.
2. Excessive UV Exposure: The risk of melanoma increases with prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, whether from natural sunlight or artificial sources such as tanning beds.
3. Family history: Individuals with a family history of melanoma are at higher risk, as certain genetic factors contribute to skin cancer susceptibility.
4. Fair Skin: People with fair or light skin are more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV radiation, which increases the risk of developing melanoma.
Melanoma: Dos and Don’ts
Dr. Shah shares the following dos and don’ts regarding melanoma:
– Do regular self-exams to monitor your skin for blemishes, blemishes, or any changes in overall appearance.
– Protect your skin from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats.
– Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF regularly, especially when exposed to the sun, and reapply as needed, especially after swimming or sweating.
– Seek shade during peak sunlight (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when the sun’s rays are strongest.
– Reduce the risk of UV damage by minimizing prolonged exposure to the sun, especially during peak hours.
– Stay away from tanning beds, as they can contribute to harmful UV exposure and increase the chance of developing melanoma.
– Be sure to apply sunscreen thoroughly, using enough to cover exposed skin, and avoid neglecting this important protective measure.