More on this topic: « The ABCDE’s of Melanoma
North Atlanta Dermatology
Gabrielle M. Sabini, MD Gabrielle M. Sabini, MD

Melanoma at a Glance

What causes melanoma?
There is definitely an increased risk with sun exposure, but some people get melanoma in places that have never seen the sun. The thing most closely related to melanoma is a bad sunburn early in life. Otherwise there are many genetic factors. If there is a family history of melanoma, you are at a 50 percent higher risk of getting melanoma yourself.

Who is at the highest risk for developing melanoma?
Redheads and blondes have a high risk because their skin typically burns, freckles, and reddens easily. If you tan frequently or you have over 100 moles, you have a very high risk as well. Each year, the risk of getting melanoma goes up drastically. One out of every 105 Americans born in 1993 will develop a malignant melanoma in their lifetime. In contrast, the risk in 1935 was only one in 1,500, in 1960 it was one in 500, and in 1980 it was one in 250.

How is melanoma diagnosed?
It’s all based on depth. If you catch a melanoma early and it hasn’t grown more than .75 millimeters into the skin, you have a nearly 100 percent survival rate. The deeper it is, the more likely it is to metastasize.

What does malignant melanoma look like?
Unfortunately, melanoma looks different on everyone. It can be a brown mole with a reddish hue around the edges, or a mole that’s black, grey, or irregular shaped. It’s so important to check your own body, because you can get melanoma anywhere you have skin.

What are the treatment options with melanoma?
If you find it early, the treatment is excision. There is no radiation or chemo needed. If tumor has spread, survival rate isn’t good, but fortunately most melanomas are found early.

What is the risk of recurrence?
If you catch it early, risk is close to zero. The deeper the melanoma at the time at diagnosis, the higher the risk for recurrence. The risk of recurrence skyrockets with anything over .75 millimeters.

Besides sunscreen, what are some preventative measures we can take?
Wear sun protective clothing. I also recommend a pill called Heliocare – you can get it over-the-counter, and if you take it before you go out into the sun, it decreases your risk of sunburn.


North Atlanta Dermatology
Duluth Office:

3850 Pleasant Hill Road

Duluth, Georgia 30096

Johns Creek Office:
6610 McGinnis Ferry Road, Suite 200

Johns Creek, Georgia 30097

Hamilton Mill Office:
3331 Hamilton Mill, Suite 1106

Buford, GA 30519

(770) 814-8222

More on this topic: « The ABCDE’s of Melanoma