Getting Your Moles Checked Out

Melanoma: Risk Reduction, Screenings, And Treatment

by Javier Bell

Melanoma is one type of skin cancer that tends to be especially aggressive. There are ways you can reduce your risk of melanoma, and engaging in regular screenings can help you catch melanoma when it may be easier to treat.

Risk Reduction

The major way to reduce your risk of all types of skin cancer—and especially melanoma—is to limit your exposure to the sun. People with fairer skin are especially vulnerable to damage from the sun. Wearing sunscreen on your exposed body parts all year long will provide you the best protection against the sun. You should purchase sunscreen with the highest SPF you can find and the sunscreen you choose should protect against UVA and UVB rays. Reapplying sunscreen throughout the day, especially if your skin gets wet, will provide the best protection. People who wear makeup should not rely exclusively on the SPF in their foundation. They should also use a moisturizer with SPF. Since people do not generally reapply makeup throughout the day, wearing a hat to shield your face from the sun is a great compromise.


Regular screenings are the way to catch melanoma in the earlier stages. You should learn the signs of abnormal skin lesions. Any skin lesion that is crusty, cracks, or bleeds should be immediately investigated. A new mole should be monitored to determine if it changes in size or appearance. You may need help checking your back and other areas that are difficult to see. If any moles are found, monitor them by documenting the size and taking a picture. This will make it easier to notice any changes. Concerning moles typically have asymmetrical borders, inconsistent pigmentation, change size quickly, and other features may change over time. Melanoma can appear in other places, such as the fingernail and toenail beds or in the eyes. Anything concerning should be brought to the attention of your doctor, who may refer you to a dermatologist for additional testing.


If testing reveals you have melanoma, the treatment approach will depend on the current staging of the cancer. Staging is determined by both the size and depth of the primary tumor and whether it has metastasized. In most instances, an excision of the primary tumor will be done. More in-depth procedures may be necessary if the tumor is large and if additional testing is necessary to determine if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. Chemotherapy is another common treatment approach to melanoma. The specific type of chemotherapy will depend on the extent of the tumor and what the doctor thinks will give you the best chance at remission. Chemotherapy may be regional or systemic. Radiation therapy can be used to shrink or eliminate the primary tumor. Generally, multiple types of treatment are used in conjunction. The goal in most instances is remission, but in people with late-stage melanoma, the goal may be to keep the tumors at a manageable size and slow metastasis.

Although melanoma is a particularly aggressive form of skin cancer, your best defense is reducing your risk and engaging in regular screening. If melanoma were to occur, diligent screening might help you catch it in the early stages.

For more information or for help with your skincare, contact a dermatology clinic such as Desert Dermatology & Skin Cancer Specialists.