If you spend a lot of time in the sun or have a lot of moles, you may face a higher risk of melanoma. This dangerous form of skin cancer is curable when caught early.
At Allegheny Health Network (AHN), you have access to a team of physicians dedicated to lowering your melanoma risk. We specialize in detecting early signs, such as pre-cancerous moles, that are likely to cause cancer.
A visit to the Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Clinic may be right for you if you have one or more melanoma risk factors. Having risk factors means you face a higher risk for a disease, such as skin cancer. Abnormal moles (pigmented lesions) are a common risk factor for melanoma.
Melanoma risk factors include:
- A family history of melanoma
- One or more severe sunburns
- Tanning bed use
- An unusually high number of moles, typically 100 or more
- Abnormal (atypical) moles or dysplastic moles diagnosed on pathology following mole excision
- Moles that grow rapidly, change color, or are sensitive to touch
Some people face a higher melanoma risk because their natural ability to fight disease (immune system) is weaker.
Situations that may weaken your immune system include:
- Organ failure that requires an organ transplant
- Having human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Receiving immunotherapy, which is a medical treatment for other conditions including cancer and food allergies
We are one of few programs in western Pennsylvania with a Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Clinic. You receive care based on your unique needs – which for many people means regular monitoring. Our dermatologists perform detailed evaluations and test suspicious moles so you know your risk and what we can do to help you.
Highlights of our program include:
- Accurate diagnosis: We are one of few programs in the region with a physicians dedicated to diagnosing skin problems (dermatopathologists). This specialists examine small skin tissue samples under a microscope to confirm or rule out a melanoma diagnosis. Since skin problems are our specialists’ only focus, we offer a level of skill that leads to an accurate diagnosis.
- Nationally recognized cancer care: For complex cases, including melanoma that comes back after standard treatments or large cancerous moles, we work alongside physicians from AHN’s Cancer Institute. Find out more about skin cancer and melanoma care.
Typical screenings for melanoma include a careful examination of the surface of your skin. Our dermatologists take this approach one step further by using sophisticated tools and technologies. If we detect signs of melanoma, you receive additional tests or treatments as quickly as possible.
Special screening tests for melanoma include:
- Dermoscopy: We use a device with a light and magnifying lens to detect melanoma’s unique cell patterns. Dermoscopy also helps us identify other types of cancer, including basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer.
- Mole mapping: Three in 10 cases of melanoma develop from an existing mole. We use mole mapping to monitor atypical moles over time. This technique combines whole body photos with dermoscopy to detect subtle changes. Mole mapping may also be right for you if you have more than 50 atypical moles in one area.
The type of care you receive depends on how severe the melanoma is:
- For low-risk melanomas: Our dermatologists perform surgical procedures to remove them. Low-risk melanomas include small cancerous moles as well as noncancerous moles that could become melanoma.
- For severe cases: Our dermatologists work with a team of cancer specialists to treat melanomas that extend past the surface of your skin. Our team also treats melanomas that have spread to other areas. You benefit from the recommendations of cancer doctors, cancer surgeons and radiation therapy specialists. Find out more about the AHN Cancer Institute.
Our Melanoma and Pigmented Lesion Clinic is located at:
Allegheny General Hospital
490 East North Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 or request an appointment to learn more about AHN dermatology services.