Melanoma, the "ugly duckling" lesion

  • Published
  • By Kathleen Canfield
  • 779th Medical Support Squadron
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. One of the more worrisome types of skin cancer is melanoma.

Melanoma is a skin cancer that grows in pigment-making cells, called melanocytes.  It is potentially life threatening and often begins as an "ugly duckling" lesion.

"The first sign of a melanoma is a new mole or a brown or red spot that looks different from all your other spots. If you see this kind of spot you should visit your primary care provider to have it evaluated," said Maj Ryan Freeland, Dermatologist, 779th Medical Operations Squadron.

Even though we blame the sun for melanoma, it is only part of the story. Genetic pre-disposition has an influence on who is at risk for getting melanoma. All races and ethnicities are at risk.

"The only way we know how to minimize the risk of melanoma is to protect ourselves from the sun.  This is especially true for children younger than the age of 10.  There is clear evidence that our most damaging sunburns happen before the age of 10... so keep children out of the sun!  If they are out in the sun, keep them covered up with clothing, hats, swim shirts and sunblock," said Freeland.

The treatment of melanoma ranges from cutting out the melanoma, to removing lymph nodes, to very serious cancer medications for melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body.  In the case of melanoma, an ounce of prevention with the use of sunblock may be worth 10 tons of cure!

Enjoy your summer but be smart in the sun.  This includes regular use of clothing that covers your skin and apply sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher in areas that are not directly covered by that clothing. Sunblock should be reapplied every two hours.

Patients who have a concerning pigmented lesion should contact their Primary Care Manager for a referral to dermatology.