Save money on malignant melanoma

The best way to save money on malignant melanoma is to prevent it altogether.

And one way to prevent melanoma is by avoiding indoor tanning.  According to the Skin Health Study, indoor tanning is associated with a four times greater risk of developing malignant melanoma.  For this reason, the health reform bill recently enacted a 10% ”sin-tax“ on indoor tanning services.  If it will not only increase your risk of cancer, but also cost more, why bother with indoor tanning at all?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all, and untanned skin may soon be popular.

The next best way to save money on malignant melanoma is to diagnose it early.

Here’s a test:  look at the next three pictures and answer these questions:

A.  Is the shape asymmetric or symmetric?
B.  Is the border irregular or smooth?
C.  Is the color consistent or inconsistent throughout the mole?

Title: Pathology: Patient: Melanoma Descriptio...
Image via Wikipedia
Title: Pathology: Patient: Melanoma: Color Des...
Title: Pathology: Patient: Melanoma: Asymmetry...
Images via Wikipedia

It’s pretty easy to see that the moles are Asymmetric, the Borders are irregular, and the Color is inconsistent.  These are the ABCs typical of a malignant melanoma.  If you detect a similar mole on yourself, see your physician right away. 

An early cancer can often be surgically excised for a complete cure, for under $500.  A melanoma that has already metastasized (spread) can require extensive treatment that costs tens of thousands of dollars - and still be fatal. 

Copyright © 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD

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One Response to Save money on malignant melanoma

  1. admin says:

    I had a facebook friend ask:

    Can, should, you go to a skin doc and get a body map done, or will your G.P. do it? I mean, you stand naked and turn around and any suspicious buggers are mapped and pointed out to watch henceforth, and harmless garden-variety age spots also identified to the owner as “not to worrys”. – SM


    My knee-jerk reaction was to say, yes, it’s a good idea and a family doc could do it as well. Then I decided to see what the US Preventive Services Task Force said. Is there any evidence one way or the other?

    Here’s a quote from their web site found at:

    “Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. The majority of skin cancer is nonmelanoma cancer, either basal cell cancer or squamous cell cancer. The incidence of both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer has been increasing over the past 3 decades. In 2001, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against routine screening for skin cancer by using a total-body skin examination for early detection of skin cancer.”

    They also mention it would take a study of 800,000 patients to prove whether screening for skin cancer decreases morbidity or mortality from the disease.

    A study that size is unlikely to be done, and if it takes that many patients to prove a benefit, it couldn’t make that much difference. A dermatologist might argue with this, but screening tests are intended to diagnose problems early enough to make a difference in quality of life or length of life.

    If, for example, doctors would have to screen 100,000 patients at a cost of, say, $50 apiece, to help one person, that’s $5,000,000 per person helped. Is that reasonable? I don’t think we can afford it. Better to use that money where it can have more impact.

    So now my answer is: when you see a doctor for some other reason, have him or her take a quick look at any spots you may have. If any are suspicious, you can take the next step. Theoretically, a quick look could be included into any physical, but it would be less rigorous than a full body map.

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