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17 May 2010

Melanoma: Increasingly Common; Curable When Caught Early

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Melanoma -- the most serious form of skin cancer -- is becoming increasingly common

Just 45 years ago, 1 in 600 people in the United States had a chance of getting melanoma during his or her lifetime. By 1980, the lifetime risk had risen to 1 in 250. Today, 1 in 50 Americans can expect to face melanoma at some point. The increase likely stems from the increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun as well as better screening and detection. Mayo Clinic Women's HealthSource covers the increasing prevalence of melanoma and other updates on the disease, including:

Prognosis and treatment: The main treatment for malignant melanoma is to remove the entire tumor along with a margin of normal-appearing skin. Removing the tumor at an early stage almost always cures the disease. Although melanoma can be deadly, more than 80 percent of these cancers are discovered at an early stage when they can be cured. If the cancer has spread, other treatment options might include removing lymph nodes, radiation therapy, chemotherapy or immune-based therapy.

Risk factors: Anyone can get melanoma, but fair-skinned people who sunburn easily are at the highest risk. A history of sunburns is the most important risk factor for melanoma. Other risk factors include: use of tanning beds, particularly before age 35; the presence of more than 50 moles or more than two atypical moles with irregular features; a family history of melanoma; and a personal history of skin cancer.

Risk reduction: Avoidance of intense sun exposure and sunburns are the most important ways to prevent melanoma.

Dermatologist consultation: It's wise to see a doctor when skin changes are detected that could indicate melanoma. Examples include growing, bleeding or itchy moles or new or changing irregular growths. Other suspicious signs include moles with color variation (shades of tan, brown, black and sometimes white, red or blue) and growths or moles larger in diameter than a pencil eraser (more than 6 millimeters). People at high risk of skin cancer should see a dermatologist periodically for a complete skin examination.

(Medical News Today)

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