Understanding melanoma can help you to read the warning signs - after all, early detection could save your life. Let’s dive-in to the signs, risks, and types of melanoma.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer because of its ability to spread (metastasize) to local lymph nodes and other organs. It is estimated that melanoma kills, on average, over 10,000 people in the United States every year.

Warning Signs of Melanoma

Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. According to Dr. Adam Asarch, Board-Certified Dermatologist and Fellowship-Trained Mohs Surgeon with Forefront Dermatology, “Anyone who has more than 50 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your skin and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body.”

Melanoma can occur in a variety of colors including brown, black, red, blue, or purple. These spots can be flat or raised and can bleed easily.

How does Melanoma start? Am I at risk for Melanoma?

Everyone is at risk for melanoma, but increased risk is dependent on several factors including UV exposure, number of moles on the skin, skin type and family history.

- UV Exposure – If you had a blistering sunburn in your early childhood, it has increased your risk of developing melanoma. Getting sunburns later in life, and the total amount of sunlight you are exposed to (cumulative sun exposure) increase your chances of developing melanoma. Natural sunlight is not the only danger - according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, those who use tanning beds increase their chance of melanoma by whopping 75 percent.

- Moles – There are two kinds of moles: normal moles and atypical moles. Atypical moles put you at an increased risk of developing melanoma. It is important to monitor all moles to determine if they are atypical. All moles need to be monitored to see if a mole changes size, shape, color, and texture. It’s important to "get to know” your moles. We recommended to have another set of eyes, such as a spouse or loved one, to help you monitor your moles regularly. Everyone should see a dermatologist once a year for professional examination.

- Skin Type – Fair and pale skin types are at a greater risk of skin cancer, but there is still risk of skin cancer for darker skin tones as well.

- Family History – Genetics plays a large role in whether you are at a greater risk of developing melanoma. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, research shows if you have an immediate relative who has been diagnosed with melanoma, you are considered to come from a melanoma-prone family –with a 50% greater chance of developing the disease.

Be Proactive

It is extremely important to see your local dermatologist and have any worrisome areas professionally examined. Remember, early detection saves lives and a simple office appointment with your Dermatologist can truly mean the difference between life and death.

Remember, early detection saves lives! Click here to schedule your skin check.