RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – When we talk about melanoma, we show pictures of people out in the sun, unprotected.

“I had noticed in the last six, like since Covid started, six months-ish, that around my face and neck, it’s gotten a lot worse. So I’m not sure if it has to do with wearing a mask, or maybe a cleaning product we’ve been using since. But it’s definitely gotten worse since last year.” – Brenna Scott, Eczema Patient

Exposure to UV light, including tanning beds put patients at risk for melanoma. A family history, fair skin, a history of burning are risk factors as well.

Erin Wilday had none of those.

“I knew it was an aggressive form of cancer,” she says.

This is a mild case of eczema. Scott says she has had worse breakouts, particularly on her hands when exposed to latex gloves. A breakout, after coming into contact with things like irritating substances, is one of the tell-tale signs of the skin disorder. Patients scratch the itchy skin, and subsequently the skin breaks down and becomes cracked. It’s an opportunity for infection.

As a matter of fact, she was at the dermatologist for another reason, and simply mentioned a mole on her leg had changed.

An examination, and a sample sent to pathology, Erin got an unexpected call.

“I was terrified. We didn’t know what stage it was. It was scary,” says Erin. A surgeon removed the small mole. But a large scar was left.

“What it looks like, and how big it is? You worry about saving someone’s life,” says Dr. Cindy Lamerson, a dermatologist with Nevada Center for Dermatology. Dr. Lamerson says it’s a small price to pay.

“Sometimes, it’s intrinsic, meaning a part of a person that their immune system is kind of overreactive in a way. And that’s called atopic dermatitis, where we don’t have an exact causative agent that’s coming in from the outside and irritating the skin. But then there’s other causes of eczema, including allergic contact dermatitis.” – Dr. Cindy Lamerson, Nevada Center for Dermatology

Left alone melanoma can spread to other parts of the body where removal and treatment of the cancer becomes more complex.

While she can spot some obvious signs of melanoma, sometimes she says the skin cancer doesn’t fit into a particular category.

She says her biggest ally in defeating the disease is the patient himself. They are more apt to notice changes and bring them to her attention.

“I really honed in on that change for her,” says Dr. Lamerson. So, I had to listen to the patient. And low and behold with my dermoscopy it looked ok. But under a microscope it was melanoma,” she says.

Dr. Lamerson says there’s several different types of eczema, some it characterized by the cause of the flare-ups, and where those flare-ups appear on the body. Treatments can be specific to the kind of Eczema the patient has. More importantly, Dr. Lamerson says, using mild soaps, and in many cases keeping the skin lubricated helps. Getting an accurate diagnosis from a dermatologist though, will help a patient take the best course of action.

Catching Melanoma in its earliest stages is important. The survival rates reflect that. If it is localized you have a 99% survival rate within five years.

If it spreads to other parts of the body, that number goes down to 27%.

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