Melanoma (cont.)

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What methods are available to help prevent melanoma?

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  1. Reducing sun exposure: Avoidance of sun exposure is the best means of helping to prevent melanoma, followed by wearing hats and tightly woven clothing, and then followed by broad-spectrum waterproof sunscreens applied liberally and often. There has been some controversy about the extent to which sunscreens protect against melanoma. The consensus among dermatologists is that sunscreens are at least partially helpful and are certainly preferable to unprotected sun exposure. (Despite sensational articles in the popular press, there is no credible evidence that sunscreens can cause melanoma.)
  2. Early detection: Get your skin checked at least once. Then, if it is recommended, have your skin checked on a regular basis. The American Academy of Dermatology sponsors free skin cancer screening clinics every May all over the country. Special "Pigmented Lesion Clinics" have also been established in many medical centers to permit close clinical and photographic follow-up of patients at high risk. In most areas, these clinics are only available to patients who have been referred to them by a concerned dermatologist.
  3. Screening of high-risk individuals: Anyone at high risk, such as anyone with a close relative who has melanoma, should be screened by a doctor for melanoma.

Conclusions

When it comes to spots on the skin, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Melanoma is a potentially serious form of skin cancer. Diagnosed early and treated properly, it can very often be cured.

Guideline # 1: Nobody can diagnose him- or herself. If you see a spot that looks as though it is new or changing, show it to a doctor.

What is in the future for melanoma?

Research in melanoma is headed in three directions: prevention, more precise diagnosis, and better treatment for advanced disease.

  • Prevention: Public education and more widely available screening clinics can increase public awareness of the need for sun avoidance, sunscreen use, and early detection of suspicious spots.
  • More precise diagnosis: Newer experimental techniques, such as the confocal scanning laser microscope, may help doctors make more certain calls on borderline or suspicious spots.
  • Better treatment for advanced disease: Because conventional chemotherapy has been disappointing with melanoma, researchers have turned their attention to biologic treatments of advanced melanoma to stimulate the body's own immune response against the tumor. These biologic treatments include interferon, interleukins, monoclonal antibodies, and tumor vaccines.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/24/2014

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Melanoma (Skin Cancer) - Diagnosis Question: What was the stage of your melanoma when it was diagnosed?
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