1 – The summer is just around the corner and warmer weather means people will be hitting the beach. And being sun savvy is more important than ever.
2 – Yeah, thousands of cases of Melanoma that can be cured have been caught early, a dermatologist joins us to explain that. Oh May is skin cancer awareness month and today is Melanoma Monday……. and get their skin checked.
1 – Yeah, according to the skin cancer foundation, one out of five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of seventy. And Melanoma in particular is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.
2 – This year almost two hundred thousand people expected to be diagnosed in US, more than seven thousand are projected to die. But Melanoma’s can be curable if caught and treated early.
1 – And joining us now to talk about it is dermatologist Jeanine Downie. Thank you for joining us.
Dr. Downie – Thank you very much for having me Arony.
1 – Alright, first of all let’s jump right in. Can you tell us a little bit about how skin cancer forms, particularly Melanoma?
Dr. Downie – Okay, so skin cancers come from family history, they come from sun damage, sometimes they can rise up in a scar, in scarring that type of thing. And so pretty much, they are the most preventable type of cancer. And here in the United States, one out of every three cancers diagnosed, according to the skin cancer foundation is skin cancer. So that’s very significant. So, we as dermatologists are trying to get people to wear sunscreen every single day, rain or shine, January through December and that’s regardless of what ethnicity you are. So, they can just come up, something that’s a pimple and……. something that’s not healing properly, something that just looks a little weird, we call it like the ugly duckling kind of a thing, that means you need to go see a board certified dermatologist.
2 – You know, I have to think, not going to……. at you but I think……. are kind of weird someone, I should just get this checked, I mean whatever, I must go and have a dermatologist look at this and whatever……. I have no idea but when that happened I said look Bob Marley. Bob Marley, Melanoma, Died! That’s always the first thing that goes into my head, you know, you mentioned it, black, white doesn’t matter, you just be…….
Dr. Downie – It doesn’t matter and he had this underneath his toenail, where obviously sunblock would not have helped him but it was misdiagnosed at first and quite frankly called, African Americans have like a seventy one percent survival rate from Melanoma where……. Americans have a ninety three percent survival rate. And like both of you said accurately at the beginning, Melanoma survival rate is over ninety nine percent when it is diagnosed early but many times they are not just diagnosed fast enough and therefore you see the discrepancy in the five year survival rate.
1 – So, lot of times we hear about Melanoma, we hear about you know, misformed moles or something like that. Can you really break down what it is, especially compared to something like basal cell carcinoma or something like that.
Dr. Downie – Right. So, basal cell is the most common skin cancer in the United States, just four million diagnosed every single year. Melanoma is much less common. It is asymmetrical. It’s usually a darkly pigmented region that’s asymmetrical, the borders are irregular, the color can be varied, it can have blue, it can have red, it can have purple within the mole; the diameter is usually bigger than a pencil eraser and bigger than six millimeters. And every……. point that you have there may run the family having a lot of moles increasing your risk and it can be … especially for Asian Americans and African Americans, where the palms, soles, the genitalia, under the fingernails or toenails and even inside the mouth. So, it does not necessarily have to be on sun exposed areas Arony.
1 – That’s good to know, yeah.
2 – Okay, so when I was talking to these doctors, you know there are some patients that I have, they come in every year, and they do pictures or……. and they like track all the moles and then every year they are like “this is……..” because you can’t see your whole body right? Now to me this sounds credibly awkward and invasive. How does that work?
Dr. Downie – So what we do for people that have a ton of moles is that we look at all pictures, we look at what they look like in front of us and we ask them if anything’s changing. Hopefully, they have a partner that can help them with the back and the backs of their legs but patients are a best help with that type of a process because they tell me, “Oh no doctor, there’s this thing right here, this changed yellow, this started itching, this started bleeding” so we communicate with the patient to find out what’s what. And the picture that you are showing, that’s a dermatoscope and so we look through the dermatoscope to note the changes in the mole. If the mole is changing, that’s not a good sign, so we have to communicate with the physical live patient, but many many times you have to take pictures in some areas that otherwise you wouldn’t want a picture taken up for you, to your point and that can be invasive to some people but it is necessary sometimes to save their lives.
1 – So, how often should we be doing kind of like this self-inspection in looking for detection obviously because early detection can help save your life.
Dr. Downie – Right, so I recommend that everybody look at their skin a minimum of once a month from head to toe. You know women are supposed to check their breast once a month, they should look at their skin head to toe once a month and men also. In terms of going into the dermatologist’s office, that’s once a year for a full body screen, where we part your hair and we go from your scalp down to your toes. And we kind of look everywhere. But if you have a strong history of skin cancer, if you’ve had a lot of skin cancers, then perhaps it’s every six months or perhaps it’s even every three months Arony. It just really depends.
2 – Okay, what about children and I assume anyone gets skin cancer. I hope it would be more rare in children but you know what does that look like. What’s that?
Dr. Downie – It is more rare in children but unfortunately in forty percent of the cases it’s misdiagnosed and so a lot of times children are misdiagnosed at first within pigmented regions then figured out later and unfortunately they are farther along, so even children that have a history of skin cancer or have a lot of moles should be checked out at a young age. I have no problem with that and the skin cancer foundation and other board-certified dermatologists agree with me. And everybody should use sunscreen of an SPF of thirty or above every day with reapplication. That is key.
1 – Well Doctor Downie, we thank you so much, you know just for sharing your expertise and light on this situation, and in this month that we highlight something like this because as we said there are some many other kinds of skin cancer that we could go into but we thank you for being here.
Dr. Downie – Thank you very much for having me.
2 – Alright, thank you again.