Melanoma is an overlooked cancer that all teens and young adults should be educated about.  Over the last few weeks, we gathered questions from students in grades 7-12 to ask a certified dermatologist, Dr. Schneiderman.  His undergraduate degree was completed at the University of Wisconsin and he continued his education in Medical School at Syracuse.  He then studied Dermatology at University of Virginia for three years and is now teaching at Columbia Presbyterian(for the past 32 years).  We thank Dr. Schneiderman for his time and knowledge on this topic, and we hope he has answered any questions you may too have had yourself.  Enjoy! 

Q- Is melanoma hereditary?

A- Yes and no.  There are some that are not hereditary.  Most are not hereditary, meaning that most who have it do not have a family history. However, about 10% of melanomas are inherited and there is a specific gene called CDKN2A. Currently there is a national registry for family history with melanoma and we are trying to find the relationship. There is an increased rate if a family has more moles (nevi), blue eyes and blonde hair, and blistery sunburns (at least 3 burns as a child).

Q- Are tanning booths or the sun worse?

A- Both are not good.

Q- Is there a difference between SPF 30 and SPF 50?

A- We do not have good scientific data, but the higher is offering better chances.

Q- What are special precautions to take to protect against melanoma?

A- Stay out of the sun between 10 and 2, early morning and late afternoon sun is OK. Avoiding midday sun is the best solution.

Q- Is melanoma cancer?

A- Yes. It's a cancer of pigment cells.

Q- Is melanoma common and in what age?

A- There's between 70,000 and 90,000 a year in the US. I see between 2-3 patients a month. It is most common in all age groups. It is the most common cancer in young people.

Q- Can you die from melanoma?

A- 7,000 people a year die from this. Catching it at an earlier stage is beneficial to detect it before it turns deadly. It is graded by the thickness of the tumor. Chemo and radiation do not work. The tragic form can most of the time be preventable by being careful, and being able to recognize it.

Q- Where does it mostly occur on the body?

A- It's irrelevant. It can occur anywhere. More likely on the legs of women and the back of men.

Q- Is it more common in males or females?

A- Chances are the same.

Q- What are the a, b, c, d, and e's of melanoma?

A- A - Asymmetry. B - Border. C - Color. D - Diameter. E - Evolution of it changing shape, color, border.

Q- What kind of doctor should I see if I see a weird freckle?

A- Dermatologist.

Q- Any closing remarks?

A- The most important thing is to recognize the moles that you have on your body. You should know the size, shape, and where they're located. If there is a change, you should be able to recognize it. It is important that people with a lot of moles self examine themselves.