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What is melanoma?

Skin cancer, which occurs when abnormal skin cells grow uncontrollably, is by far the most common type of cancer. Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in the melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin. Carcinoma is a type of cancer that begins in cells that make up the skin or in the tissue that lines the organs.

Skin cancer risk factors and symptoms

Risk factors for these types of skin cancer include:

  • Family history
  • Frequent exposure to UV radiation, including sunlight and tanning booths
  • History of severe sunburns
  • Fair skin that easily sunburns
  • Use of some antibiotics, hormones, or antidepressants

Symptoms of skin cancer are usually judged by appearance. Melanomas usually form from moles, while carcinomas usually form as lesions or sores on the skin.

Skin cancer screening and diagnosis

Dermatologists recommend performing monthly self-examinations to detect any cancerous or precancerous areas on the skin. You can use the ABCDE guidelines to judge if a mole displays any signs of abnormality:

  • Asymmetry — One half of the mole does not match the other half.
  • Border — The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular.
  • Color — The color of the mole is not the same throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
  • Diameter — The diameter of a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil.
  • Evolution — The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

If you have a history of skin cancer, your doctor may recommend yearly checkups with a dermatologist for a head-to-toe examination. If you find irregular areas during regular self-exams, be sure to bring this to your physician’s attention to receive a diagnosis. They may order a skin biopsy or imaging tests, such as X-rays or CT scans, to diagnose skin cancer and determine the severity of the disease.

Skin cancer treatment and surgery

Treatments for skin cancer, including melanoma and carcinoma, includes:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Surgery

Together, the multidisciplinary oncology team at St. Luke’s Health determines what procedures are appropriate for each individual patient based on their overall health and other factors.

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U.S. News & World Report

Home of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only three NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Texas, U.S. News & World Report has accredited Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center as one of the best hospitals for several specialties, including previous accreditation for compassionate patient-centered cancer care.