Melanoma Screening for Early Detection
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Whereas other forms of skin cancer tend to limit themselves to the skin, melanoma can metastasize and spread from the skin to other organs in the body. Once melanoma has spread, the prognosis is poor, with only 6 percent of patients surviving five years past the diagnosis. For this reason, accurate and effective skin cancer screenings are essential for early detection. Metropolitan Dermatology provides screenings for patients in Clark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Kearny, Kenilworth, South Plainfield, Staten Island, Teaneck, Vineland, and West New York.
Who is a candidate for this procedure?
You may be a candidate for skin cancer screening if you have any suspicious moles, freckles or other growths on your body. You should also undergo frequent skin cancer screening if you have ever had precancerous or cancerous lesions diagnosed in the past. Skin cancer screening is available for people of all ages. Keep in mind that, although exposure to ultraviolet light* increases the risk of skin cancer, lesions may become cancerous whether or not they have ever been exposed to sunlight.
*NOTE: According to the American Academy of Dermatology and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds, tanning booths and sun lamps have been proven to increase the risk of all skin cancers, including melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas. In fact, the risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when indoor tanning devices are used before the age of 30.
The ABCDE's of Melanoma
Melanoma screening involves the evaluation of questionable lesions that may be cancerous. Lesions are considered "questionable" if they meet one or more of the following characteristics:
- Asymmetry - Freckles and normal moles are symmetrical, whereas cancerous lesions may not be. If you have a mole that isn't the same on both sides, it may be abnormal.
- Border Irregularity - Most normal lesions have smooth borders. If you have a lesion with jagged or rough borders, it should be evaluated.
- Color Change or Irregularity - Cancerous lesions may not be a single color. For example, they may contain spots that are darker or lighter, or they may be black on one side and reddish on the other. Cancerous lesions may also change color over time.
- Diameter - Lesions that are bigger than a common pencil eraser should be evaluated.
- Elevation - Cancerous lesions may be raised above the surface of the skin. They may also have a surface that is uneven.
What is an epiluminescent microscopy?
In most cases, skin cancer screenings are non-invasive and involve only an physical examination of existing lesions. If a mole or lesion does seem suspicious, our physicians will examine the area in question to determine whether it possess any of the questionable characteristics listed above. After the visual exam, our dermatologists can use non-invasive techniques to determine whether it appears to be cancerous. At Metropolitan Dermatology, we first use a lighted microscope (epiluminescent microscopy) to examine the tissue beneath the top layer of skin. If the lesion being examined needs further attention, our dermatologist may perform a biopsy so the specimen can be tested in a lab.
What are the advantages of routine screenings?
Some of the advantages of routine screening with epiluminescent microscopy include:
- Early detection of a potentially-deadly cancer
- Non-invasive procedure that can be completed in a dermatologist's office
- Up to a 30 percent increase in the detection of melanoma
- Reduction in the number of unnecessary skin biopsies
- No wounds or scars (if a biopsy is found to be unnecessary)
- Better treatment outcomes (if cancer is detected early)
- Puts your mind at ease
Will I need follow-up treatments?
Depending on the outcome of your screening, you may need additional tests or treatments. If you have ever been diagnosed with precancerous lesions or skin cancer, or if you are at a high risk for developing skin cancer, you should have regular cancer screenings. If you have had cancer at any time during your life, regular screenings for occurrences of melanoma, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are highly recommended.
Some moles may become cancerous later in life. If a mole that has already been screened starts to change, it needs to be tested again. In addition, you may develop other questionable growths that may also need to be evaluated. If you would like to learn more about preventative screenings for early detection of skin cancers, call the Metropolitan Dermatology office nearest you in Clark, Elizabeth, Jersey City, Kearny, Kenilworth, South Plainfield, Staten Island, Teaneck, Vineland, and West New York, or request an appointment.