Well Being — 30 June 2017
The ‘ABCDE’ warning signs of Melanoma

By Jana Soeldner Danger

City & Shore Health Writer

For many of us, summer means days at the beach and fun in the sun. But all that sun can also make summer a dangerous time for developing skin cancer.

T.J. Sharpe was 25 when he was diagnosed with Stage 2 melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer. After surgery, doctors told him there was a 50 percent chance that it would recur, so he was careful about protecting himself. “I always used sunscreen and wore long-sleeved shirts,” he says.

Despite his precautions, he was diagnosed a second time 12 years later. This time when doctors found the malignancy, it had spread to his lungs, spleen, liver and small bowel.

“My oncologist told me he’d be surprised if I was here in two years,” Sharpe says.

Not so long ago, that kind of diagnosis would have been an almost certain death sentence. But today, new drugs that boost a patient’s immune system to fight the disease are changing that. “Even five years ago, there weren’t many options,” said Dr. Omar Rashid, complex general surgical oncologist at Holy Cross Hospital. “Now there are options, and I can give people hope.”


 

A

 is
for asymmetry. The two sides of a benign mole will usually look alike. The sides of a cancerous mole usually will not match. 

B

 is for borders. A mole with uneven borders is more likely to be cancerous than one with even borders.

C

 is for color. A normal mole is usually one shade of brown. A malignant mole is often different shades of brown, tan or black, or even red, white or blue. Some melanomas, Dr. Rashid warns, are colorless.

D

is for diameter. If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser, it is time to visit the dermatologist.

E

 is for evolution. The appearance of a benign mole usually stays the same. A mole that changes, however, should be checked. 

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