Skin cancer: Dr Chris outlines the signs of a melanoma
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The US actress – who works closely with TV writer, director and producer Ryan Murphy is currently starring in Impeachment: American Crime Story, which depicts the sex scandal between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. The series which is currently airing on BBC Two every Tuesday sees Sarah Paulson play Linda Tripp – an American civil-servant who secretly recorded confidential phone calls between the then President and Lewinsky. Although far-less dramatic in her real-life Sarah discovered that she had melanoma – a type of skin cancer.
The star was shocked to find out that a mole of hers had become infected when she was only 25 years old.
Talking to the Chicago Tribune she said: “I was 25 years old. Who thought it could happen to me?
“When I was a child in Florida, my parents probably didn’t slather me in sunscreen.”
The star first became worried about her mole when she said that it looked “like someone used a black sharpie pen” on it.
The most common sign of melanoma is the appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing one according to the NHS.
This can happen anywhere on the body, but the most commonly affected areas are the back in men and the legs in women.
The mole may look larger than normal, can sometimes be itchy and can have more than one colour to them. Therefore it is crucial to be on the lookout for changes in shape, size and colour.
As soon as she noticed that something wasn’t right Sarah consulted her GP and had tests on the area.
She said: “Had I waited six months, there’s such a hugely increased possibility that it would have spread, and it would have been just disastrous.”
Luckily for the star the skin cancer had not invaded other parts of the body.
However, shaken by her ordeal Sarah now says that she is now very “careful to stay out of the sun” whilst also using a high SPF sunscreen daily.
The condition can be extremely serious and melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in the UK with around 16,000 new cases each year.
To help you identify characteristics of unusual moles, The Mayo Clinic provides a handy tool that may help to indicate melanomas or other skin cancers.
It says to think of the letters ABCDE:
- A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
- B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders — characteristics of melanomas.
- C is for changes in colour. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
- D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
- E is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding.
There is also the possibility that melanomas may be hidden. This is when melanoma develops in a part of your body that has little or no exposure to the sun. This includes spaces between your toes, palms, soles, scalp and genitals.
People with darker skin are more likely to develop a hidden melanoma as those with fairer skin are more at risk of developing melanoma as they are more easily affected by the sun.
The main treatment for melanoma is surgery, although your treatment will depend on your circumstances. If melanoma is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, surgery is usually successful.
If melanoma is not diagnosed until an advanced stage, treatment is mainly used to slow the spread of the cancer and reduce symptoms.
The NHS explains that this usually involves medicines that target specific genetic changes in the melanoma, such as BRAF inhibitors, or medicines that boost your body’s immune responses to the melanoma.
Individuals who have already had melanoma are at a greater risk of developing it again, so regular check-ups to monitor your health are important. In order to prevent developing melanoma it is best to avoid getting sunburned.
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