By Matthew Sirott, MD
May is Melanoma Awareness Month and the first Many Faces of Skin Cancer, an educational event focusing on skin cancers.
Melanoma ranks as the seventh leading type of cancer in the United States. The lifetime risk for a diagnosis of melanoma in the United States is 1.94% for males and 1.30% for females; the lifetime risk for death from melanoma is 0.35% for males and 0.20% for females.
There are many risk factors for developing melanoma, both environmental and genetic. The factor you can best control to reduce your risk of melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Some experts believe that 65% or more of melanoma is caused by exposure to the sun, especially during childhood. Following is a list of prevention tips.
Detection of melanoma at early stages is essential and lifesaving. The ABCDE of melanoma recognition are: asymmetry, border irregularities, color variation, diameter greater than 6mm and evolving or changing lesions. If you have a suspicious lesion, you should talk to your primary care physician or dermatologist about biopsying the lesion.
Proper surgical management is essential in obtain the diagnosis and the stage of the melanoma. Lymph node biopsy is done in patients at high risk for lymph node metastasis. Radiation can be used for patients with significant risk of local recurrence. Interferon is used in patients with high risk resected melanoma. In patients with metastatic melanoma, biologic therapy such as high dose interleukin-2, oral temodar, biochemotherapy and combination and single agent chemotherapy all have been used. A therapy for metastatic melanoma treatment, ipilimumab (Ippy) recently received FDA approval. It is one of the first antibody-based therapies that uses the body’s immune defenses to destroy cancer cells. Ippy was shown to offer a survival benefit for metastatic melanoma, which is often a fatal disease.