Melanoma is the most worrying type of skin cancer, so finding and treating it early is essential. If you have a suspicious-looking mole, surgical oncologist Joshua Ellenhorn, MD, can help. Dr. Ellenhorn is a leading surgeon practicing in Beverly Grove, nearby Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, who specializes in treating melanoma and skin cancer. Call Dr. Ellenhorn today to find out more, or book an appointment using the online form.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. The other types of skin cancer exist in the nonmelanoma category.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more common than melanoma. Squamous cells are the cells that form the uppermost layer of your epidermis (outer skin). Basal cells lie under the squamous cells.
The third type of cells in the upper layer of the skin are melanocytes. These cells make the pigment melanin that gives your skin its color. Melanoma starts in the melanocytes. Although more serious than nonmelanoma cancers, melanoma is also rarer.
Skin cancers, including melanoma, develop after exposure to the sun. The more natural melanin you have in your skin, the less likely you are to develop melanoma. As Caucasians have the lowest levels of melanin in their skin, you’re more likely to get skin cancer if you’re Caucasian. People with darker skin are less likely to get skin cancer, but it is still possible.
Certain risk factors make you more likely to develop skin cancer. These include having:
Fair skin that burns rather than tans is more likely to develop skin cancer. If you had a lot of sunburns when you were younger, especially if your skin blistered, that also increases your risk of developing skin cancer. There are also genetic links to skin cancer.
The main risk factor is exposure to the sun or artificial sunlight from a tanning bed.
Skin cancer most often develops in or near an existing mole, so you should get into the habit of checking your moles for any changes. Look for moles that:
Dr. Ellenhorn can perform several tests to see if a suspicious mole is skin cancer and whether it’s melanoma. He can take a sample of the mole, which could be as a shave, punch, or incisional biopsy. Or he can remove the entire mole for testing.
Treatment for melanoma and skin cancer begins with surgery to remove the tumor and surrounding tissue. Dr. Ellenhorn cuts out the affected area, and, if necessary, uses a skin graft to repair the wound.
It’s essential to find out whether any melanoma cells are present in other areas of your body, so Dr. Ellenhorn might need to check whether the cancer is in your lymph nodes. To do this, he carries out a procedure called lymph node mapping and a sentinel lymph node biopsy.
In addition to surgery, you might also need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Immunotherapy medications such as interferon can also be beneficial in treating skin cancer.
If you’re concerned about skin cancer and fear you may have melanoma, call Joshua Ellenhorn, MD, today or book an appointment online.