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Five Fast Facts You May Not Know About Melanoma

Montefiore Expert Shares Surprising Insights to Melanoma Diagnoses and Treatment

 NEW YORK (May 27, 2014) – Did you know melanoma is a deadly skin cancer that commonly starts as a mole and changes shape and color over time or that there may be no signs or symptoms in its initial stages? During Melanoma Awareness Month, experts at the Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care are working to answer those questions and many more and are providing educational information and a melanoma screening on May 31 in order to help people prevent and recognize its early signs.

“Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, responsible for 80 percent of skin cancer deaths, even though it is not the most common form of the disease,” explains Katia T. Papalezova, M.D., surgical oncologist, Department of Surgery, Montefiore, and assistant professor of surgery, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. “The earlier we can catch and monitor melanoma, the greater opportunity we have to apply a full range of therapies, ranging from minimally invasive procedures to immunotherapies, which work with the body’s immune system to stop or slow the progression of cancer cells.”  

To help people identify the disease and enhance skin care education, Dr. Papalezova shines light on her five favorite melanoma facts. 

1. A “base tan” will not help against melanoma. “Base tans” do not actually exist, so when trying to get that perfect tan, try a self-tanning product or spray, but continue to use sunblock. Whether it’s a tan from a bottle or the sun, it will not protect you from the sun’s UV rays or skin cancer.       

2. Melanoma commonly impacts those younger than 30. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old, and the second most common cancer among adolescents 15-29 years old. 

3. Melanomas are frequently found on areas that aren’t exposed to the sun. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body. In fact, up to 10 percent of the time, melanoma is diagnosed on the foot. It can also be found between fingers and toes, so be sure to monitor these areas.  

4. Those with darker skin are still susceptible to melanoma. While melanoma is less common for those with darker skin, different ethnicities are at higher risk for some skin malignancies. For example, Latinos and Asians tend to develop basal cell carcinoma, a slow growing form of skin cancer. Therefore it is important to monitor any new or changing moles. 

5. Lack of pigmentation is NOT always a sign of melanoma. Nodular melanomas, spots which develop quickly and are sometimes mistaken for a mole or blemish, do not have pigmentation and account for 15 percent of melanoma cases. Sometimes even a pimple that looks a little different than normal should be brought up with your dermatologist. 

Montefiore will be hosting its free, annual melanoma screening on Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 1521 Jarrett Place from 9am to 2pm. Appointments are encouraged, but not required. For more information about the event or types of melanoma treatments, please visit www.montefiore.org/cancer or call 718-862-8840.