Joint Base Andrews


Melanoma: the 'ugly duckling' lesion

By Kathleen Canfield | 11th Medical Support Squadron | July 24, 2017


According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. One of the more worrisome types of skin cancer is melanoma.


Melanoma is a skin cancer that grows in pigment-making cells, called melanocytes. It is potentially life threatening and often begins as an “ugly duckling” lesion.


“The first sign of a melanoma could be a new mole (brown or red lesion) that looks different than your other moles or a mole that you’ve had for a long time that suddenly starts changing. If you notice a concerning lesion, you should visit your primary care provider to have it evaluated,” said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Marsha Mitchum, 11th Medical Operations Squadron dermatologist.


Even though we blame the sun for melanoma, it is only part of the story. Genetic pre-disposition has an influence on who is at risk for getting melanoma. All races and ethnicities are at risk.


“Although melanoma sometimes arises in non-sun exposed areas, you can reduce your overall risk of getting melanoma by protecting yourself from the sun. The most damaging sun exposure occurs between 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Avoid excessive sun exposure during these hours whenever possible. When you and your family members are out in the sun, cover up with sunblock, hats, and swim shirts,” Mitchum said.


The treatment of melanoma ranges from cutting out the melanoma, to removing lymph nodes, to very serious cancer medications for melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. In the case of melanoma, an ounce of prevention with the use of sunblock may be worth 10 tons of cure.


Enjoy your summer but be smart in the sun. This includes regular use of clothing that covers your skin and apply sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher in areas that are not directly covered by that clothing. Sunblock should be reapplied every two hours.


Patients who have a concerning pigmented lesion should contact their Primary Care Manager for evaluation and possible referral to dermatology.

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