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Time to check for melanoma.

With summer at an end, this may be a good time to check for signs of exterior damage from sun, surf, or whatever Mother Nature inflicts on us. We all carry evidence of time's ravages--moles and other little things that keep popping up the longer we live. Most of these need be of little concern, but one always should consider the possibility of melanoma.

The National Institutes of Health recently convened its Consensus Development Conference on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Early Melonoma. The conference members found that:

(1) The diagnosis of early melanoma is important because (a) melanoma confined to the skin surface can be safely excised with only 0.5 cm margin of skin, and (b) melanoma that has penetrated less than 1.0 mm into the skin can be excised with only 1.0 cm margin, with an expected 90 percent patient survival rate. Once the cancer has spread, however, it is usally fatal.

(2) Extensive lymph node dissections, commonly performed in the old days, are presently not recommended.

(3) Although patients with early melanoma are at low risk for relapse, they may be at high risk for development of subsequent melanomas and should be followed closely.

(4) Family members of melanoma patients may be at increased risk for melanoma and should be enrolled in surveillance programs.

Conference members agreed the public should know about (1) the increased risk of melanoma related to excessive sun exposure, particularly in childhood; (2) the clinical appearance of early melanoma; (3) the excellent prognosis associated with detection and treatment of early melanoma; and (4) the need for regular skin examinations by themselves and their physicians.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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