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Health & Wellness
Fall 2013
The Garden City Telegram
such as lights and magnifying glasses
to aid in a more thorough examination
of the skin.
Strandmark said he is also familiar
with patients who may have had a mel-
anoma on the skin that went undetect-
ed, shrunk away and then metastasized
(spread) elsewhere in the body.
“Melanomas are a real worry,” he
said. “If you see something suspicious,
you need to go to a doctor.”
Those most likely to suffer from
melanoma have a fair complexion,
freckles, blue eyes and red hair, Byers
said. A tendency toward sunburns also
makes you more susceptible to the skin
Research shows there is an inherited
tendency toward the disease. Knowing
if family has suffered from it is impor-
tant to determine your own risk, Byers
said. People born with a lot of moles
or with large birthmarks also have an
increased risk.
Few children are diagnosed with
melanoma, but those who are, often
have large birthmarks.
“Melanoma can come from a mole
already there, or a lot can just show up,”
Byers said.
Anyone who has used a sun tanning
bed also should be aware of their
increased risk.
“I definitely don’t recommend them,”
Byers said.
“Most melanoma is on the skin,”
Byers said, but it does not necessar-
ily show up where a patient has had a
blistering sunburn in the past. It can
show up anywhere.
For women, melanomas most com-
monly occur on their legs; and for
men, on their backs.
“The goal is to hopefully catch it
when it’s thin to keep it from spread-
ing,” Byers explained. The thickness of
a melanoma is measured by fractions
of millimeters by physicians.
Normal moles are typically round,
brown, have a smooth border, are 5
mm in diameter (about the size of a
pencil eraser) and are the same color
as the patients’ other moles.
The most common sign of mela-
noma is a change of appearance or
growth of a mole. Bleeding or itchiness
of a mole is also a cause for concern.
People should check their own skin
regularly. A common detection guide-
line uses the “ABCDE” method, Byers
said. Each letter stands for a step in the
self-examination process:
• A stands for asymmetrical (one half
of the mole does not match the other
• B stands for border irregularity.
• C is for color.
• D is for diameter. Is it larger than
5 millimeters (the size of a pencil
• E is for evolving. Is it growing or
If someone finds something con-
cerning, they should go to a doctor
they trust, Byers said. While derma-
tologists specialize in the skin, physi-
cians in family practice also do a lot of
“Go to somebody you are comfort-
able with,” she said. “And go from
Through the years, she’s had refer-
rals from many doctors in different
specialties such as family practice but
even dentists and obstetrician/gyne-
While the skin is the most common
place for melanoma to arise, she’s also
seen it in the eye, brain, spinal cord,
intestines, genitals and more.
Like other cancers, melanoma can
metastasize — or spread — to other
parts of the body. That is why it’s so
important to catch it early, Byers said.
Encouraging people to protect them-
selves from the sun is not always easy.
“People just don’t like to use sun-
screen in general,” she said.
With her own loved ones, Byers
emphasizes how protecting yourself
from the sun also prevents wrinkles
and freckles.
“Sometimes that’s more helpful,” she
said, in encouraging people to protect
their skin from the sun’s damaging rays.
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