We love our beach days and warm sunshine, but the sobering fact is that there are more new cases of skin cancer in this country each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.
“At particular risk are people with pale skin or who have a family history of skin cancer, a history of severe sunburns, numerous or unusually shaped moles, or people getting excessive or unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays,” says Dr. Omar Eton, medical director of the new Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute Melanoma and Skin Care Center, the only facility of its kind in the region.
The end of the summer is a great time to take a look at your skin – ask someone to help with your back and the bottoms of your feet – to look for tell-tale signs of melanoma, the third most common form of skin cancer and the cause of the most deaths from the disease.
Dr. Eton suggests checking your skin regularly for anything unusual. If you find a spot, mole or growth, take a picture and watch for any changes in size or color. This vigilance can be the key to finding and surviving skin cancer.
Follow what Dr. Robert Piorkowski, the Center’s surgical oncologist, calls the ABCs of skin cancer to find the warning signs of melanoma.
- Asymmetry – if you draw a line through a mole, do the two halves match?
- Border – are the edges notched or uneven?
- Color – are there different shades of brown, tan or black?
- Diameter – is it larger than a pencil eraser?
- Evolving – do you notice changes, bleeding or itching?
If you question something, talk to your primary care provider or ask for a referral to the Melanoma and Skin Care Center where the team includes a dermatologist, surgical oncologist, dermatopathologist and, starting in January, a surgeon specializing in treating ocular melanoma, the most common form of eye cancer.
The latest technology – including total body photography – helps get you answers quickly and avoid unnecessary biopsies and anxiety. Pathology reports are read onsite and cases are reviewed by tumor boards through Hartford HealthCare’s membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance.
“This all helps us ensure we are delivering the best possible care for each individual patient.” Eton notes.
For more information or to make an appointment at the Melanoma and Skin Care Center, go to hartfordhealthcare.org/melanoma or call 1.855.255.6181.