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Melanoma Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know that you are a diagnostic tool when it comes to identifying skin cancer including malignant melanoma?


What is Melanoma?

Did you know that you are a diagnostic tool when it comes to identifying skin cancer including malignant melanoma? Skin cancer consists of precancerous lesions: actinic keratoses, cancerous lesions: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Malignant melanoma has been more prevalent over the last few decades. Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer- it can stay either only on the skin’s inner surface layer or if it penetrates deeper into the skin, it can metastasize (move) to other areas of your body. Melanoma is cancer of melanocytes in the skin. Melanocytes are cells in the inner lay of skin that give us our skin pigment. Typically, melanoma is found on the skin’s surface and easily treatable. However, skin cancer lesions can occur in any area of our body-including the hard to reach and see places- even our eyes! Skin cancer screening tools are essential in detecting skin cancer. Some risk factors for melanoma include fair skin, light eyes, red or blond hair, excessive moles, excessive UV exposure (think tanning bed or sun), family history of melanoma, or suppressed immune system. Your own eyes are the best first line identification tools to catch a concerning lesion! Let’s review some red flags when it comes to skin lesions.

Signs of potential cancerous lesions:

1. Change in color such as sudden darkening, brown or black.

2. Red, white, or blue color.

3. Lesions that you can “feel” but can’t see well.

4. Change in border such as irregular borders or asymmetry.

5. Change in surface characteristics: oozing, scaling, crusting, bleeding, ulcers, elevation, loss of normal skin lines.

6. Lesions that are painful, itchy, or tender.

7. Lesions or sores that do not heal within 4-6 weeks.

8. Lesions that are growing.

So, what can you do?

Do regular skin checks at home. Use the “ABCDE” mnemonic to regularly evaluate your skin spots. Have a handheld mirror to check the hard to see places. See your primary care doctor or dermatologist for annual skin exams. Have annual eye exams. Wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15 if planning to be in the sun for longer than 15 minutes and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming. Use other sun protection tools including SPF-rated clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Avoid tanning beds and sunbathing.

Remember: the earlier skin cancer lesions are identified, the easier they are to treat. Melanoma can be cured in most cases if caught early. Take steps to reduce your risk for skin cancer and always consult with a trusted healthcare provider with any concerning lesions!

By: Andrea Davenport, NP


Buttaro, T.M., Trybulski, J., Polgar-Bailey, P., & Sandberg-Cook, J. (2017). Primary Care A Collaborative Practice (5th ed). Elsevier: St. Louis, MO.

Family Caregivers Online. (September 16, 2021). What is Melanoma?  (Photo). Retrieved from

Swetter, S., & Geller, A. (2021). Melanoma: Clinical Features and Diagnosis. Retrieved from

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