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New Devices and Methods for Detecting Skin Cancer

Posted: November 14, 2008

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An analysis of 2001-2005 data from the Academy’s National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Screening Program supports the need for people to watch their moles for changes. A study of the data published in the July 2007 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found those who indicated they had a mole that changed recently in size, color or shape were two times more likely to be diagnosed with a suspected melanoma.

“Some melanomas don’t show any other abnormalities except that they are evolving over time,” said Marmur. “It’s not unusual for people to wait until a melanoma has grown significantly to see a dermatologist, and unfortunately, that sometimes means the cancer has spread to other areas of the body. I am confident lives will be saved by encouraging people to bring their evolving moles to the attention of a dermatologist. And I have been able to save lives purely because a partner or spouse has detected a changing lesion on someone who rushed in for a biopsy and curative surgery.”

Marmur explained she sees numerous patients who say that they have had a mole forever, but that it recently started bleeding and then ultimately turns out to be a skin cancer. She added that a classic example of an evolving skin cancer is a man who notices a mole that begins bleeding while he is shaving. This can be a basal cell carcinoma, a squamous cell carcinoma or a melanoma. All three are serious and can be cured if caught early.

“Melanoma can be on the skin for a long time before it ‘misbehaves’ and gives patients a clue that it may be a lesion that needs to be addressed,” said Marmur. “We find that people who check their skin regularly - looking for the warning signs of skin cancer and taking note of any changes - are more likely to spot skin cancer in its earliest stages before it spreads.”

The Academy’s Body Mole Map is a tool individuals can use to track their moles. The map provides information on how to perform a skin exam, images of the ABCDEs of melanoma and space for people to track their moles to determine any changes over time. Free downloads of the Body Mole Map are available at www.melanomamonday.org.