What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma (also called malignant melanoma) is the most aggressive and deadly type of skin cancer, and it is becoming more common each year. Utah has the highest rate of melanoma in the nation with 42 cases per 100,000 people. Vermont is the state with the 2nd highest rate, with 37 cases per 100,000 people. In 2018, there were around 180,000 cases diagnosed in the United States, with over half of those being invasive.

Why is this skin cancer so common in Utah? For several reasons: 1) Utah’s population is mostly Caucasian, and people with lighter skin, hair color and eye color are more commonly affected. 2) Utah is one of the states with the highest average elevation, and Utah residents do lots of outdoor activities, even in the winter, such as skiing, so they are exposed to a lot of UV radiation. 3) Utah has lots of people who use tanning beds. Using an indoor tanning bed before age 35 increases your risk of getting this type of skin cancer by 59%. That risk increases with every tanning bed session. 4) Family History: Melanoma is more common if you have a family history, and unfortunately, Bountiful, Woods Cross and the surrounding areas have a lot of families with genes for melanoma in their DNA.

More than 75% of skin cancer deaths are caused by melanoma, but only 4% of all skin cancers are melanoma. So while it is not as common as basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer it is much more fatal. Dr. Bahr has lost a few friends in Bountiful to this deadly disease, including one when he was in college at the University of Utah. One person dies from melanoma every 60 seconds in the United States. Interestingly, it is the second most common type of cancer in women ages 15-29, and is more common in pregnancy.

 
 

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

A melanoma usually starts out as a new brown or black spot on the skin, but sometimes can be skin-colored or pink.  In most cases at least one of the following 5 characteristics called the “ABCDE’s of melanoma” will be present.

 


1. It will be Asymmetric




2. Borders will be notched or scalloped 




3. Multiple Colors


 

4. Diameter greater than 6 millimeters ( about the size of a pencil eraser )




5. Have Evolving ( or changing ) features like shape, size, or color.


 
Or it will look different than all your other moles. This is what board-certified dermatologists call the “ugly duckling sign”. If you have a spot that is new and different, make an appointment at Bahr Dermatology in to get it checked. We are located in Bountiful, Utah
 


“Reprinted with permission from the American Academy of Dermatology. All rights reserved.”

Examples Of Melanoma Cases









What Types Of Treatments Are There For Melanoma?

If you have a melanoma and it is caught early, the best treatment will be to surgically remove it with a margin of normal skin surrounding the skin cancer.  If it has grown deep into the skin (more than 0.8 centimeters, or about a quarter inch) there is a higher risk of it spreading to other parts of the body, which is called “metastasizing”. Depending on how deep it has grown in your skin, other studies and treatments may be recommended such as a sentinel lymph node biopsy, and CT scans to determine if your skin cancer has spread.

Dr. Bahr works in tandem with several radiologists, oncology surgeons, and oncologists in the Bountiful, woods cross area to offer the most advanced diagnosis and treatment for all types of skin cancer. Recently, several new targeted therapies have been discovered that can help treat conditions that has spread. These newer treatments provide hope to patients, and Dr. Bahr can help you learn about these newer advanced treatment options and plan the proper treatment if you have a melanoma that has spread to other parts of your body already. If you live in Utah, particularly in Davis county or Salt Lake county, Bahr Dermatology in Bountiful is your best option to get your skin checked, and to treat your melanoma. If you do have one, Bahr Dermatology offers same day visits, and can usually get your appointment scheduled more quickly than any other dermatology office in Utah. Call 801-298-1514 to schedule your skin check appointment at our Bountiful office today, or make your own appointment online by clicking the button below.