Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday: Why is Early Detection of Skin Cancer Important?


Protecting yourself now is key to working to prevent skin cancer in the future. 

“The sun damages the DNA in our skin cells,” noted Dr. Deborah Elder, a dermatologist with Charlottesville Dermatology. “Your DNA starts to try to repair itself, but after a period of time it can’t and as you get older it’s less and less likely it can repair.  Those damaged cells then can transform and become precancerous or cancerous.”

The most common type of skin cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers – basal and squamous cell carcinomas that often don’t spread to the lymph nodes. 

“They start often as a pink scaly patch, or a raised pink bump, or just a bleeding bump,” said Dr. Elder. 

Melanoma skin cancers, however, are much more dangerous. 

“Melanoma skin cancer is the most deadly type of skin cancer and that comes up often within or near a mole,” said Dr. Elder.  “It may be detected by a change in a mole, a sudden change in size or color or bleeding, or a new mole you haven’t had before that looks different from the others.”

The good news is – if caught early – there is a high likelihood the issue can be treated. 

“With melanoma, if the lesions are caught before they have a chance to progress to the lymph nodes than there is a 98% five year cure rate,” said Dr. Elder. 

For more information on this topic, please call 1-800-SENTARA. If you have a question about your health you’d like us to answer, email healthquestions@nbc29.com

Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday

Do you have health questions? Get the answers every Monday morning from the experts in our feature: Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday.

Jenn Downs will meet with the experts of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital and ask them your questions. You’ll see and hear the answers during NBC29 News at Sunrise every Monday morning.

To submit your questions, email them to healthquestions@nbc29.com. Then, tune in every Monday morning during NBC29 News at Sunrise for Sentara Martha Jefferson Monday.

Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital