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Protecting Against Melanoma & Other Skin Cancers

May 21, 2018 1:00 PM with Dr. Britt Hanson

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Protecting Against Melanoma & Other Skin Cancers

It’s almost summertime, and with the weather warming up and the sun shining, it’s tempting to spend all day outside. Many don’t realize the potential risk of living their skin unprotected; with melanoma on the rise for the past few decades and thousands of new cases being diagnosed every year, learning about safe skin care is essential. Start your education with Dr. Britt Hanson, NorthShore Medical Oncologist. She will be taking your questions about melanoma and other skin cancers, and provide expertise on recognizing the signs and protecting your skin.

Colie (Moderator) - 1:00 PM:
Our chat with Dr. Hanson about melanoma and other skin cancers is now open. You can submit your question at any time.

Britt Hanson (NorthShore) - 1:01 PM:
Hello! I am Dr. Hanson and I am an oncologist at NorthShore who specializes in melanoma. I'm ready to answer questions!

  Julia (Buffalo Grove) - 1:02 PM:
My dad died of melanoma at the age of 52, I get yearly body checks but what is my risk or risk to my kids of developing melanoma? Of course I wear sunscreen and hats, long sleeves, etc. Any suggestions on getting teens to wear sunscreen? They fight me on it because their friends don't wear it, even though I stress the importance.
Britt Hanson
Hi Julia! First degree relatives of patients who have had a skin cancer have a 10% increase in the risk for developing a skin cancer themselves. This risk lessens for second/third degree relatives. Continue to wear sunscreen and protective clothing and continue to encourage your children to do the same!

  Freya (Portage, IN) - 1:05 PM:
What are the signs of skin cancer for black people? I have brown skin. What is sun sensitivity?
Britt Hanson
Hi Freya, signs of melanoma in black individuals would be a mole that is changing in nature, has abnormal colors, or causes symptoms such as pain, bleeding, or itching. Could you clarify your question regarding sun sensitivity?

  Larry (Winnetka, Illinois) - 1:08 PM:
I am an identical twin. My 56 year old brother has been diagnosed with melanoma. Because we are identical twins does this mean I will develop melanoma? I had a full body skin check and there were no worrisome lesions found. With my twins history how often should I have full body exams? Thanks
Britt Hanson
Hi Larry, melanoma is largely tied to sun exposure. Just because your identical twin has had melanoma does not mean that you will develop melanoma. Your risk for melanoma is increased given his history, but your greatest risk for melanoma is a history of sunburns, especially blistering sunburns. People with fair skin and red hair also have an increased risk.

  Nicole (Libertyville, IL) - 1:12 PM:
My grandma had some melanoma spots removed a while ago but my mom has been okay. Should I be concerned about hereditary risk?
Britt Hanson
Hi Nicole! You have a slight increase in your risk for melanoma due to your family history. First degree relatives have a 10% increase in the risk for melanoma. Sun exposure poses the greatest risk for melanoma. Be sure to wear sunscreen, brimmed hats, and protective clothing. Also be sure to get regular checkups with your dermatologist.

  Anna (Evanston, Il) - 1:16 PM:
I have a history of melanoma (x3). What are the odds of having another melanoma?
Britt Hanson
Hi Anna, I'm sorry to hear about your history of melanoma. Patients who have been diagnosed with melanoma have a 5-10% risk for developing another primary melanoma. Continue to get regular checks with your dermatologist as early detection is key.

  Gail (Mount Prospect, Illinois) - 1:20 PM:
Does a melanoma just develop on its own or does it arise from old age spots or does a basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer progress to melanoma? Thanks!
Britt Hanson
Great question Gail! Melanoma typically arises from a pre-existing mole. Any mole that is large, asymmetrical, abnormally colored, or symptomatic (pain, bleeding, itching) should be evaluated. Basal or squamous cell carcinomas cannot transform into melanoma. Although if you have a basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, your risk for melanoma is increased by about 10%

  william (vernon hills) - 1:25 PM:
Good afternoon, Dr. Hanson, I have this pigment or mole (though not elevated above the skin surface) at my back. I have this for the past 15yrs or so. it is green in color, but so far, it haven't change in appearance, color, or size. And I haven't (& always forgetting) consult/show it to my PCP. Do I need to have it biopsy, or surgically removed it in the near future? Or just wait & observe for now...Thank you.
Britt Hanson
Hi William, it is difficult to provide clear recommendations without being able to visually assess the lesion. I would advise that you have your doctor look at the lesion in order to determine the next best steps.

  Susan (Evanston, IL) - 1:28 PM:
I recently had a stage 1A melanoma (<.2 mm) removed. I'm on a quarterly skin check schedule. Would you recommend any lymph node biopsies, either now, or in the future, say if another lesion occurs within a certain time frame?
Britt Hanson
Hi Susan, melanomas that are <1mm do not usually require a lymph node biopsy. Typically, stage 1A melanomas are at very low risk for travelling to the local lymph node. You should continue to follow regularly with your dermatologist who is familiar with your case.

  Lynda-Sue (Evanston, IL) - 1:36 PM:
Due to my higher risk for different types of skin cancer, it was recommended that I make an appointment with a dermatologist for a body scan. Can you explain what this involves and if there are specific NorthShore doctors with whom I should make an appointment? I have a referral from my primary care physician; however, not to a specific physician. Thank you.
Britt Hanson
Hi Lynda-Sue. A full body skin examination starts with changing into a patient gown. The dermatologist will perform a full skin examination and assess for any concerning lesions. If there are any lesions of concern, the dermatologist may choose to perform a biopsy of the lesion. There is an excellent dermatology team at NorthShore. You can call 847-663-8060 to schedule an appointment. The entire group is excellent, I have referred my own family members there.

  Sonja (Lincolnshire) - 1:43 PM:
My daughter uses a tanning bed. Can she get skin cancer from them even if she’s using the approved tanning-bed suntan lotion?
Britt Hanson
I would advise your daughter to stop using a tanning bed. This can absolutely increase the risk for skin cancer, even if she is using suntan lotion.

  Anthony (Schaumburg, IL) - 1:47 PM:
My mom’s side of the family is fair-skinned and my dad’s family has a dark complexion. Should I be concerned for skin cancers like my mom is if I have darker skin and I am a male?
Britt Hanson
Hi Anthony, people with fair skin are at higher risk for skin cancer. That being said, skin cancer can affect all skin types- even dark skin. So any concerning lesions should be evaluated by a physician. Also make sure to wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and brimmed hats to best minimize your risk.

  Jodi (Mundelein, IL) - 1:51 PM:
I have a lot of freckles and check them often. Can I tell if I have melanoma or not by looking at my skin? If I can, what should I be looking for?
Britt Hanson
Hi Jodi, the best way to assess for skin cancer is to have a board certified dermatologist perform a full skin examination. They have dermatoscopes in the office that help them assess lesions more closely. If you have any moles that are changing in appearance, are abnormal in color, large, have irregular borders, or are causing symptoms (pain, itching, bleeding), these should be assessed.

  Rose (Highland Park, Illinois) - 1:56 PM:
My dad had melanoma but doesn’t go to the doctor that often. How often should he be going after treatment?
Britt Hanson
Hi Rose, that would really depend on a number of factors, such as how long ago the he had the melanoma, the stage of the melanoma, and his prior history. He should contact his doctor who treated the melanoma to get recommendations regarding follow up.

Colie (Moderator) - 1:59 PM:
This will be the end of our chat. Thank you for your participation. For more information about melanoma or other skin cancers, or to set up an appointment, you can visit our Oncology Department.

Britt Hanson - 2:00 PM:
Thanks everyone for the great questions! Have a wonderful day and remember to wear sunscreen and stay well covered!
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