In honor of Monday May 6th which is designated “Melanoma Monday,” we will focus on the basics of malignant melanoma in Minnesota and its prevention.
What is Malignant Melanoma?
Malignant Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. Melanoma arises from the pigmented cells in the base of the skin known as melanocytes. Malignant melanoma has been shown to arise both from normal skin and from preexisting moles. Melanoma may be deadly as it rapidly spreads to the lymph nodes and other body organs. In Minnesota, the rates of melanoma are among the highest in the United States.
Most melanomas occur on the skin where they can be seen, thus patients themselves are often the first to detect these deadly skin cancers. Early detection and diagnosis are crucial — any spot that is growing or changing should be evaluated by your doctor. Dermatologist Dr. Mohiba Tareen is an expert at the prevention and early detection of malignant melanoma. Caught early, most melanomas can be cured with minor surgery.
How do I recognize a Melanoma?
The ABCDE criteria are helpful to determine which skin lesions may be suspicious:
A: Asymmetry: one half of the mole is unlike the other half
B: Border irregularity: an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border
C: Color changes or more than two colors within a mole
D: Diameter greater than 6 mm or larger than a pencil eraser
E: Evolving- any rapidly changing mole
Who is at high risk for melanoma?
Individuals with a history of atypical or “dysplastic nevi” as well as those with red hair, fair skin, and light eyes are at higher risk for developing melanoma. In addition, those with a history of intense sun exposure and first degree relatives of individuals with melanoma should have a full body skin check yearly.
Can Melanoma be Prevented?
Sun protection and avoiding tanning beds are the most important ways to lower the risk for melanoma. In some families with a VERY strong history of melanoma, genetic testing for the CDKN2A mutation may be done.
Can Aspirin Protect Against Melanoma?
A new observational study from the Women’s Health Initiative followed 60,000 postmenopausal women (ages 50- 79) who took aspirin regularly. The longer the women took aspirin, the lower their risk for melanoma. Tylenol and other NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen were not beneficial. The risk of melanoma was 21% lower in the women who reported regular aspirin use. After 5 years, the risk for melanoma among the regular aspirin users was 30% lower! Therefore, aspirin may be a viable prevention modality for melanoma.
Malignant melanoma in Minnesota is on the rise. Sun protection and avoiding tanning booths have been proven to reduce melanoma risk. Melanoma prevention may be added to the list of aspirin’s numerous preventative benefits. Speak with your doctor if a daily aspirin can be beneficial for you!