By Dra. Andrea B. Ruiz Leal and Dr. Luis Enrique Sánchez Dueñas.


melanomaMelanoma is the most important skin cancer. It ranks third in frequency, life threatening and high mortality index. When detected early by clinical examination and dermoscopy (a tool that increases the diagnostic accuracy by 35%) melanoma can be cured with no impact to a patient’s lifestyle. Common risk factors are: fair skin, red hair, blue eyes, sunburns during childhood, positive family history of melanoma, previous melanoma, multiple atypical moles or dysplastic nevi, inherited genetic mutations and sun damaged skin. However, melanoma can occur in any ethnic group and non-sun exposed body areas.

The importance of early detection of melanoma cannot be overstated. At Dermika Dermatologic Center located in Ajijic, we care about patients education, early detection of skin cancer and timely treatment of pre-cancerous lesions and skin cancer. Currently our team totals five certified dermatologists trained in dermoscopy. As part of our commitment to Ajijic community, we have organized campaigns for early skin cancer detection every six months free of charge.

After 18 months of program, we have assessed 2613 patients and 16 melanomas have been detected. Out of these, 5 melanomas were in situ and 10 were Breslow with less than 1mm in thickness. These two are the earliest stages where malignant invasion is not evident (in situ) or minimal (Breslow less than 1mm in thickness) and the recommended treatment is surgery with healthy skin margins of 0.5-1cm and no other additional treatment needed. 67% of patients were male, fair-skinned, with flat-pigmented spots or pinkish patches predominantly on upper extremities and trunk (75%). Two of these melanomas were detected on Campaign.

These results were presented at the 9th International Dermoscopy Congress in Mexico City last September and due to the importance of these findings we will present them at the 69th American Academy of Dermatology’s Annual Meeting next February in New Orleans, La.

When melanoma is found and treated early, long-term survival is excellent. At early stages, up to 95% of five-year survival rates are estimated, but if melanoma progresses without treatment, it becomes increasingly more devastating and deadly.

The patient can play a vital role in early detection of melanoma through skin self-examination. A sudden or continuous change in the appearance of a mole is a sign that can be noticed by a simple rule. The ABCD rule can help in remember the symptoms of melanoma: “A” for asymmetry, one half is different than the other half; “B” for border irregularity, the edges are notched, uneven or blurred; “C” for color, the color is uneven, shades of brown, tan and black are present; “D” for diameter, where the diameter is greater than 6 millimeters.

Early stages of melanoma can mimic benign moles or nevi and could be detected as an asymmetric pigmented spot or even pink patches, fast growing with no other symptoms.  Therefore, it is recommended that you visit your Dermatologist once or twice a year for a whole screening using dermoscopy and follow up suspicious lesions even more frequently. Everybody who thinks he might have melanoma or dysplastic nevi should be seen by a doctor. It is also important to tell him about any new, changing, or “ugly-duck” moles.

In Mexico, dermatologists can diagnose, biopsy and treat suspicious lesions In early stages.  In these cases, dermoscopy is a very helpful tool.

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