Albany Medical Center melanoma specialist Dr. Hal Fletcher Starnes is urging Capital Region residents to know the risks, signs and symptoms of skin cancer as the summer season arrives and sun exposure is greatest.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation of America, an estimated 76,380 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. Some 10,000 of which will be fatal. It is the fifth most common cancer in men and the sixth most common in women.
“Every time you step outside without wearing appropriate clothing or sun block you are putting yourself at risk,” said Starnes, a surgical specialist with advanced training and experience diagnosing and treating skin cancer whose office is in Saratoga Springs.
He said there are three types of skin cancer. The first two are basal cell and squamous cell, which are less serious and are often found on the nose and cheek areas. The third type is melanoma, which can develop anywhere on the body usually 10-15 years after the initial sun damage occurred and can be deadly.
Wayne Morris, 70, of Greenwich, said it was discovered that he had melanoma approximately the size of a quarter on his scalp.
“I happened to be at my yearly physical when my physician first saw the lesion on my head. He sent me to Dr. Starnes who saw me immediately and diagnosed and removed what we now know was a very serious case of melanoma,” said Morris, who credits Starnes and the advanced technology used to make a quick diagnosis, which resulted in a positive outcome.
Albany Med's skin cancer specialists urge individuals to use their ABCs to identify possible skin cancer so that treatment can be sought out immediately:
• Asymmetry. If you draw a line through a mole and the two halves do not match, it's a warning sign that something could be wrong.
• Border: The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
• Color. A variety of colors, shades of brown, tan or black is another warning signal. Melanoma may also become red, blue or some other color.
• Diameter. Melanomas are usually larger than the size of the eraser on your pencil (1/4 inch or 6 mm), but they may be smaller when first detected.
• Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting indicates a problem.
Starnes encourages anyone over the age of 18 who thinks they may have, or are at risk of developing skin cancer, to contact a dermatologist or visit his office in Saratoga, where he will try to see you in one to two days.
"Just like the majority of cancers, the chances of a positive outcome increase the earlier it is detected," said Starnes.