Did you know that melanoma cases in the United States are growing faster than any other cancer? Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can be deadly if it spreads throughout the body. It usually grows near the surface of the skin and then begins to grow deeper, increasing the risk of spread to other organs. Detecting and removing a malignant melanoma early can result in a complete cure. Removal after the tumor has spread may not be effective.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, including areas that are difficult for self-examination. Many melanomas are first noticed by other family members.
Most patients with early melanoma have no skin discomfort whatsoever. See a doctor when a mole suddenly appears or changes. Itching, burning or pain in a pigmented lesion should cause suspicion, Visual examination remains the most reliable method for identifying a malignant melanoma.
Avoiding exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the best way to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers. Melanoma Monday is May 4th so here are a few tips for reducing your risk:
- Avoid direct exposure between 10am and 4pm, opt for shade
- Cover up with clothing (broad brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, etc.)
- Use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every day (including lip balm with SPF 30)
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to the entire body, 30 minutes prior to going outdoors; reapply every 2 hours or after excessive sweating or swimming
- Keep newborns out of the sun; if it cannot be avoided use a sunscreen with physical blockers to exposed areas (see below)
- Avoid tanning beds
- Remember water, sand, and snow reflect the sun; and clouds allow 70-80% UV penetration
Have fun this summer, but remember these tips for sun safety.
About Dr. Chen
Suephy Chen, MD, MS, began practicing at Emory Healthcare in 2000 and has been board certified in dermatology since 1997. In addition to melanoma, Dr. Chen has clinical interests in pruritus, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis.
Dr. Chen is a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University. She is also a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the Society for Investigative Dermatology, and the Women’s Dermatology Society. In addition, she is a founding member of the Pigmented Lesion Group of the Melanoma Prevention Working Group.
Dr. Chen earned her Doctor of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She completed her internship at the Beth Israel Hospital, a Harvard University teaching hospital, before continuing on to a dermatology residency at Emory University Hospital. She obtained her Master of Science in Health Services Research at Stanford University and completed her fellowship at Stanford Hospital.
Dr. Chen is interested in quantifying the burden of skin disease, particularly the quality of life and economic burden on both patients and society as a whole. She is also interested in testing new technologies in the delivery of dermatologic care. She has contributed to numerous phase I-IV clinical studies of novel therapeutic regimens for the treatment of both inflammatory skin disorders and skin cancers.