DEAR ABBY: Last year, my husband was being treated for a highly curable form of skin cancer when he noticed a flesh-colored bump on his neck. He showed it to his dermatologist who dismissed it as "nothing."
Many months later, it still hadn't gone away. He showed it to the dermatologist again. This time, the doctor decided to biopsy the bump, although he said he was still sure that, at worst, it was nonthreatening. Well, the biopsy showed it was malignant melanoma -- the deadliest skin cancer. Our lives were turned upside down in an instant. Major surgery and post-operative treatment followed.
Most of your readers have probably seen pictures in magazines and on television showing melanoma as a dark and irregular mole. My husband is living proof that there are exceptions to that rule. Please inform your readers that melanoma comes in other colors and shapes.
Early detection is crucial in cases of melanoma. Once it has spread, it is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. Self-examination is essential. If one finds a suspicious skin lesion, it should be checked out and a biopsy performed. The patient may have to insist on the biopsy. If the dermatologist tries to convince the patient there is no such thing as a non-pigmented melanoma, the patient should run, not walk, to another dermatologist.
Please spread the word. It can save some lives. -- FRANCIE SHUTLER, ORANGE, CALIF.
DEAR FRANCIE: Thank you for the warning. Any suspicious lump, ulcer or sore on the skin that doesn't heal within a week should be reported to your physician. It's also important to be examined by a physician if there is any change in the size, shape or texture of a mole, or if half of it appears "different" from the other half.
Readers, contrary to popular belief, the sun is no longer a safe place in which to play. The thinning of the ozone layer has made the sun's rays more powerful and damaging than ever before. It's important to wear hats with wide brims and sunscreens with a SPF of at least 15, and limit exposure to direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It's also important to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that screen out both UVA and UVB rays. Children need this protection as much as adults do.
For more information on skin cancer (and other skin problems), visit the American Academy of Dermatology Web site: � HYPERLINK "http://www.aad.org" ��www.aad.org�.