Education

Understanding Melanoma

As summer approaches, you’re undoubtedly heading outside to take advantage of all the activities that South Florida’s weather has to offer. Before donning your shorts, tank top, sandals and swimsuit, take time to understand how prolonged sun exposure increases your chance of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Melanoma can develop when repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light damages the pigmented cells, or melanocytes, that give skin its natural color. The damaged cells then reproduce uncontrollably to create a tumor.

In most cases, these “tumors” appear on the skin as moles that change shape, color, size or thickness. They can also be found in the mucous membranes and in our eyes. If not discovered early, these clusters of malignant cells can metastasize, or invade other tissues and organs in the body, making the cancer harder to treat.

Doctors recommends examining your skin regularly with a handheld mirror, even enlisting the help of a family member to look at harder-to-see areas, like the back. They also advise everyone at a higher risk to see a dermatologist yearly, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer or regularly work outdoors. Those with numerous moles or a history of abnormal moles should discuss with their doctor how often their skin should be examined by a doctor or dermatologist.

Young people not to mistakenly think this is a disease that affects older people.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 13 hospitals, more than 23,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 100 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.