It’s Not All Sun Exposure: You Can Develop Melanomas in the Winter, Too

When it comes to melanomas and other types of skin cancer, you hear a lot about the dangers of sun exposure and UV rays. But it’s not just the harmful rays of sunlight that cause melanoma, and melanomas don’t develop overnight. You might think that now that winter’s here and the days are short that you don’t need to worry about melanoma. But you need to be vigilant all the time.

Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. But when diagnosed early, you can get expert surgical treatment to remove the tumor from our team at Surgical Associates of North Texas, and that can save your life. Let’s review the facts about melanoma.

What is melanoma?

Only around 1% of skin cancers are melanoma, but it’s responsible for most skin cancer-related deaths. Fortunately, when melanoma is caught early, it’s usually successfully treated with a surgical excision procedure. But when left untreated, melanoma can spread through your lymphatic system and cause severe health problems. 

Melanoma gets its name because the cancer originates in your melanocytes. Melanocytes produce melanin, the protective skin-darkening cells. Melanoma usually develops on skin that receives significant sun exposure, but it can develop anywhere on your body, including the soft pink tissue that lines your mouth and genitals. 

What causes melanoma?

Melanoma develops when your DNA changes and your melanocytes multiply abnormally, causing a tumor to grow. While the UV rays from sunlight are a well-known cause of those changes, other factors can contribute to your risk of melanoma. 

For example, your genes and family medical history increase the likelihood of you developing melanoma. Other risk factors include having:

If any of these risk factors sound familiar, you should monitor your skin and get routine skin cancer screenings. Most people develop all their moles by the time they reach adulthood, so if you notice any new moles on your body, make an appointment to get them checked out right away. 

What are the identifying signs of melanoma?

Melanoma looks like irregular moles. The irregularities are usually described as the ABCDEs of skin cancer. 

Healthy, normal moles are usually brownish, perfectly round with smooth borders, and no larger than a pencil eraser. They stay the same throughout your life.

Melanoma moles look different. They’re irregularly shaped with blurred, uneven borders. They’re often dark black or blue and can grow to be quite large. Melanomas also change shape, size, and color. 

What should I do if I think I have melanoma?

If you’re concerned about melanoma, make an appointment at Surgical Associates of North Texas. Board-certified surgeon Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, FACS, offers expert excision procedures to remove the melanoma, as well as sentinel lymph node biopsies to help determine if the melanoma has spread into the lymphatic system.  

If you’re concerned about melanoma, no matter the time of year, call or make an appointment online for expert surgical treatment for melanoma. Remember, the earlier you get treatment, the better for your health.

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