Melanoma Specialist

MD Dermatology & Laser Center

Sanjiv K. Saini, M.D.

Board Certified Dermatologist & Cosmetic Surgeon located in Gambrills, MD & Edgewater, MD

Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer. However, there are other types of skin cancer that are less aggressive and more common. Regardless, for most people, even the word is scary. If you’re noticing changes in your skin, make an appointment with Sanjiv K. Saini, MD, at MD Dermatology & Laser Center — with offices in Gambrills, Edgewater, and Lexington Park, Maryland — to find out what’s going on.

Melanoma Q & A

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancers. It begins in the melanin — the cells that produce the pigment for your skin, hair, and eyes. Since melanoma can be seen on the skin, early detection and treatment are important. If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs, bones, and brain. Later stages of melanoma can be difficult to treat.

Are melanoma and skin cancer the same thing?

No. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, but there are other types of skin cancer. However, melanoma is the most aggressive and fastest growing.

There are actually three basic categories of melanoma:

  • Cutaneous melanoma or skin cancer
  • Mucosal melanoma occurring in mucous membranes like the nasal passages, throat, mouth, vagina, or anus
  • Ocular melanoma, occurring in the eyes

What causes melanoma?

There are several factors that cause melanoma, but research reports that a majority of melanoma cases can be linked to ultraviolet light exposure from both natural sources like the sun, as well as artificial sources like tanning beds. Other factors that lead to a higher than normal risk factor for melanoma include:

  • Living closer to the equator where the sunlight is more intense
  • Being older than 65 (due to accumulative effects over time)
  • Having five or more blistering sunburns between ages 15 and 20

Is there a cure for melanoma?

If detected early — before the cancer reaches the lymph nodes — the average five-year survival rate is 98%. Dr. Saini recommends a variety of ways to catch melanoma in its earliest stages. Recommendations include:

  • Doing regular self-examination of the skin at home
  • Making an appointment if you notice a mole or blemish that changes in color, size, or shape (view mole chart here)
  • Scheduling regular in-office skin exams for at-risk patients, or those with a family history
  • Making yearly full-body exams for past melanoma sufferers  

Can melanoma be prevented?

Protecting yourself from exposure to ultraviolet light is one of the most effective ways to prevent melanoma. Specifically, you can:

  • Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
  • Seek shade or wear protective clothing
  • Avoid tanning beds

 

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