Genetic Epidemiology

University of Utah

Melanoma

Each year, more than 1 million people are diagnosed with the cancer, which affects the largest, most visible organ of the body—the skin. The most prevalent forms of skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers seldom become life threatening. Melanoma, unlike other skin cancers, is more menacing.

Each year, about 42,600 people are diagnosed with melanoma in the United States. Colonies of melanoma cells have a tendency to spread to other parts of the body. Once they reach vital internal organs and grow, they are much more difficult to treat and are potentially lethal.

Melanoma is linked to moles. Regular self-examination for early detection is advised for all. One should inspect moles for evidence of asymmetry, border irregularity, change in color and a diameter greater than 6 millimeters. Self-exams are particularly important for those who have a family member that has been diagnosed with melanoma.

Avoiding excessive exposure to the sun is advised for all people. Relatives of individuals who have or have had melanoma need to take extra precautions, as do persons with fair skin that freckles easily or persons with blue/green eyes combined with red or blond hair.

Know your ABCD’s

Inspect yourself regularly for abnormal moles.

A - for Asymmetry. Look for moles that are not even and rounded.

B - for Border irregularity. Pay special attention to moles that have uneven, rough edges.

C - for Color. Watch any moles that change color.

D - for Diameter. Moles with a diameter of 6-mm (a quarter of an inch) should be watched carefully.

 Currently, we are not recruiting individuals for this study, but if you would like more information about melanoma, please visit the Medically Related Links webpage.

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