What Causes Melanoma? Risk Factors and Cancer Prevention

Are you concerned about the difference between a mole and a melanoma? A melanoma may present as a new mole or an existing mole that changes over time. Though melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer, it is considered the most dangerous. When not addressed early, melanoma can be fatal. The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute provides annual screenings and melanoma treatment for individuals who are vulnerable to developing skin cancer. Dr. Aradhna Saxena and Dr. David Kasper are board-certified dermatologists who treat patients in the Greater Philadelphia, PA, area. Learn more about risk factors and melanoma prevention from the team at our clinic. Contact us today to schedule a private skin cancer screening.

Common melanoma causes

So how and where does melanoma usually form? Melanocytes are skin cells that produce a pigment known as melanin, which is what gives skin its unique color. When skin is exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, it causes damage that prompts the melanocytes to produce even more melanin than before. Melanoma occurs when the damage triggers mutations in the melanocytes, resulting in dangerous and uncontrolled growth in patients. The most common sites for melanoma or skin cancer are the back, legs, arms, and face. However, we would like to stress that cancerous moles can appear anywhere on the body, even places that are not usually exposed to the sun.

Melanoma risk factors and prevention

Anyone can develop melanoma, especially individuals with a long history of sun damage and frequent exposure to ultraviolet rays. Patients are also at high risk if they have a close relative, such as a parent or sibling, with this cancer. The exact cause of melanoma is not always clear, but researchers generally agree on the following list of melanoma risk factors:

  • Patients with a high number of moles or large moles

  • Patients with light-colored or red hair

  • Patients with blue, green, or gray eyes

  • Patients with a history of tanning bed use

Though you can’t control many of the risk factors of melanoma, there are positive steps you can take moving forward with melanoma prevention. The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute recommends that you limit sun exposure and tanning bed use. If you have a family history of melanoma or other forms of skin cancer, yearly screenings are crucial in melanoma prevention. The team at the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute can also teach you how to perform a self-examination at home.

The ABCDE method for melanoma symptoms

Healthy moles are normally tan or brown with a distinct border separating them from the surrounding skin. They are small, round, and do not cause any irritation or issues for those who have them. It is essential to know your own moles so you will notice changes if they do occur. Remember to examine them on a regular basis – anything suspicious must be checked by a dermatologist. The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute uses the ABCDE method to help patients understand more about spotting potentially dangerous moles:

  • Asymmetrical: One side of the mole is bigger or differently shaped than the other

  • Borders: Irregular or blurred borders on the mole

  • Color: Darker or multi-colored moles

  • Diameter: Moles larger than 6mm, about the size of a pencil eraser

  • Evolving: Moles that change or grow quickly over time

Melanoma treatment options

When a worrisome mole has been discovered, Dr. Saxena or Dr. Kasper will carefully discuss several options with you. A biopsy may be performed to learn if the mole is cancerous. Though melanoma is rare, the team at the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute hopes to serve melanoma patients with complete understanding and empathy.

Melanoma treatment options include surgical removal of the skin cancer as well as chemotherapy or radiation. The type of treatment we recommend depends on the size, stage, and location of the melanoma. Other factors include your overall health and the risk of cancer returning after melanoma treatment. Our clinic will help you weigh the benefits and risks of each option against the possible side effects.

The cancer may be surgically removed along with some of the surrounding tissue. We will inform you of how much skin tissue we plan on removing beforehand. The procedure is performed with a local anesthetic as an outpatient treatment, with patients experiencing only mild discomfort afterward.

Learn about melanoma prevention and treatment

The Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute specializes in the prevention and treatment of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. We proudly take a comprehensive approach and create tailored plans for melanoma patients in the Greater Philadelphia, PA, area. Dr. Aradhna Saxena is a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon who focuses on screening and treating patients for skin cancer. Dr. David Kasper is a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical dermatology including skin cancer.

If you have noticed any recent changes that are out of the ordinary, don’t wait to make an appointment with our team. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with the Dermatology and Skin Cancer Institute as soon as possible. Choose from our convenient locations in Lansdale and Fort Washington, PA, in Montgomery County and learn about melanoma causes, prevention, and treatment.