What is melanoma? In this video, Dr. Anna Pavlick explains melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. Dr. Pavlick is an oncologist and melanoma specialist based at the NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center in New York. Dr. Pavlick also explains why rates of melanoma are on the rise today.
There are three main types of skin cancer. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell cancer, followed by squamous cell cancer and lastly melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are abnormal growths which may be scaly or itchy. These growths are usually easily removed and treated by a dermatologist. Basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer do not typically spread to other parts of the body. In contrast, melanoma is a skin cancer that can occur from a pigmented lesion or mole. Melanoma tends to grow more deeply under the skin, sometimes invading the lymphatic system and allowing it to spread to any other part of the body. Melanoma can also travel to other parts of the body like the lungs, liver and brain through blood vessels.
In recent years, doctors have been very successful in treating and containing most types of cancer. Unfortunately, melanoma is one type of cancer that is on the rise today. Increased sun exposure, the incorrect notion that melanoma is not a deadly type of cancer and the advent of tanning beds for young people are all factors that have accelerated the rate of melanoma. In 1995, the chance of a Caucasian American developing melanoma was 1 in 250 people. In 2015, the chance of a Caucasian American developing melanoma increased drastically to 1 in 50 people. This significant surge is cause for concern, because the rates of melanoma continue to slowly increase. The best way to stop these numbers from rising is through prevention and early detection.