Study: Most Melanomas Don’t Arise From Existing Moles

Summer is officially over and fall is here.  Although the summer activities have halted for the year, it doesn’t mean you need to stop your sunscreen routine.  Sunscreen should been worn year-round for protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays.  Another good end of the season skin tip is to perform a skin self-exam.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD), a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal covering dermatology and the official journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, it is vital to check for new growths in order to detect melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

After reviewing 38 published studies comprising 20,126 melanomas, researchers found that less than one-third of melanomas (29 percent) arose from an existing mole, while the vast majority (71 percent) appeared on the skin as new spots.  Moreover, melanomas that arose from existing moles were thinner than other melanomas, indicating that patients whose melanoma was associated with an established mole had a better prognosis than others.

“These results could indicate that patients who monitor their existing moles for suspicious changes could detect melanoma in its early stages, when it’s most treatable,” says study author Caterina Longo, MD, PhD.  “Because the disease is more likely to appear as a new growth, however, it’s important for everyone to familiarize themselves with all the moles on their skin and look for not only changes to those moles, but also any new spots that may appear.”

The American Academy of Dermatology and the Nancy W. Knowles Cancer Center encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams, asking a partner to help them check hard-to-see areas like the back.  Any new or suspicious spots warrant a trip to a board-certified dermatologist, as does anything changing, itching or bleeding.  The AAD also recommends that everyone protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.