New Study Finds Most Melanoma Cases Don't Come From Existing Moles

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Skin checks are your best defense against early detection of skin cancer and can be life-saving. New research has found that the vast majority of melanoma cases tend to develop in new spots, rather than in existing moles. This is critical information helps us pinpoint exactly what to look for when checking for changes in our skin.

According to the American Cancer Society’s estimates, more than 87,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, and of those cases, more than 9,000 people will die due to this deadly disease.

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A new study, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found that the majority, analyzed data from 38 previous studies which included information on 20,000 cases of melanoma. The researchers, from the University of Campania and University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, reviewed the cases and determined that an estimated 71 percent of melanoma cases appeared as new spots, with less than 30 percent developing in existing moles or freckles.

In order to ensure that any changes in your skin are evaluated properly, Chicago dermatologist Dr. Quenby Erickson, recommends undergoing regular skin checks. “Yearly skin checks are recommended for everyone and the interval is shortened to three to six months for people with a recent history of skin cancer,” says Dr. Erickson. “This data confirms what we already know, most skin cancers do not come from existing moles. It is the new or changing moles that present a significant possibility of being a malignancy.”

To help patients better identify early signs of skin cancer, Dr. Erickson says to remember to look for the ABCD’s and especially the E of skin cancer checks. “In regards to melanoma, ‘A’ stands for asymmetry, ‘B’ stands for an irregular border, ‘C’ is for multiple colors or color variation and ‘D’ is for a diameter of 6mm or more (while I have seen melanoma smaller than top of a pencil eraser, they are commonly larger), she explains. “Finally, the most important is ‘E’ for evolving, as in new moles or moles that are changing and need to evaluated by a professional.”

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