Many years ago, sunbathing regularly was considered good for a person's health. But as research and understanding of skin cancer have increased, so has the awareness of the link between melanoma and sun exposure.

Melanoma can develop from moles or separately and look like a mole. Occasional but intense UV exposure, such as sun exposure that leads to a sunburn, can cause melanoma. It is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, but if detected early, it’s almost always curable.

How To Identify Melanomas

Most frequently, skin cancer and melanomas develop in areas with consistent sun exposure, such as the face and arms. However, keep in mind that they can grow in any area of the body, including those with little to no sun exposure, as hidden melanomas. This version of the ABCs can help you identify them.

  1. Asymmetrical Shape: Look for moles with unusual shapes, such as jagged edges on one side and smoothness on the other.
  2. Irregular Border: Irregular, notched, or scalloped borders are a common characteristic of melanomas.
  3. Changes In Color: A mole shouldn’t have multiple colors or an uneven color distribution, such as a gradient appearance.
  4. Diameter: Most moles are smaller than 1/4 inch in diameter.
  5. Evolving: A mole that, over time, grows in size, changes color and/or starts to itch or bleed should be evaluated by a Gainesville dermatologist.

What To Do If You Suspect Melanoma

Schedule a Gainesville dermatology appointment at any time if you notice unusual skin changes.

Know Most Moles Aren’t Melanoma

Melanoma usually appears as new moles or from existing moles that change or evolve over time. People develop the majority of their moles during the first 25 years of their life. Most have anywhere from 10 to 40 moles, which may slowly change in appearance — become slightly raised, for example — or disappear altogether.

Make An Appointment With A Dermatologist In Gainesville

If you suspect something isn’t right with a mole, contact a dermatologist in Gainesville as soon as possible. Early detection is key for successful treatment of melanoma and other skin cancers. Your dermatologist will perform a full-body skin exam and scan. If the dermatologist finds a suspicious mole, a biopsy will be performed. The results will determine what steps you should take, including whether you should have dermatology surgery.

Tips For Skin Care & Sun Care

Avoid Indoor Tanning

Tanning beds and lamps emit concentrated levels of both UVA and UVB rays, which damage your skin. Though these beds and lamps have timers, users are still exposed to high levels of UV radiation in a short period of time. Even a single use per week can raise your risk of developing melanoma.

Wear Sunscreen Year-Round

While sunscreens can’t filter all UV radiation, it’s still strongly recommended to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 year-round. Generously apply and reapply sunscreen every two hours while in the sun — more often if you’re sweating or swimming.

Become Familiar With Your Skin

The more familiar you are with your skin, the more likely you’ll notice changes or anything out of the ordinary. Use mirrors to periodically check your ears, face, neck, scalp, and hidden areas such as the space between your toes and the soles of your feet.

Wear Protective Clothing

Woven clothing should cover the length of your arms and legs. A broad-brimmed hat will provide more protection than a baseball cap or visor. There are also a handful of clothing brands that make photoprotective clothing. Ask a Gainesville dermatologist for suggestions that match your lifestyle.

Gainesville Skin Cancer Center

If you’re diagnosed with melanoma, you want to work with a compassionate team who specializes in treating the condition. Surgeons with Gainesville Dermatology & Skin Surgery are specially trained in Mohs surgery, which has a high rate of effectiveness treating skin cancer. Our team is committed to providing total care to every patient. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.