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October 12, 2022

Teddi Mellencamp reveals she has melanoma; here's how to spot skin cancer

The former 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' star stressed the importance of skin checks. When identified early, skin cancer is treatable

Teddi Jo Mellencamp Arroyave is urging people to get regular skin checks and take sun protection seriously after having been diagnosed with skin cancer recently. 

The former star of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" revealed that she has stage 2 melanoma in an Instagram post Tuesday, calling it a "wake up call." 

In March, Mellencamp said she had a suspected melanoma removed after her former co-star Kyle Richards noticed some discoloration on her back. She received her cancer diagnosis after a 3-month skin check. 

"Despite my anxiety, I listened to the doctors and went in for my 3-month skin check last week since my previous melanoma," the 41-year-old mother of four wrote on Instagram. "They said I had another abnormal spot near my last one so they did a biopsy. I got the call this morning: Stage 2 melanoma.

"Moral of this story: if a doctor says, 'come in every 3 months' please go in every 3 months. I so badly wanted to blow this off. 'What could happen in 3 months?' I thought. Apparently a lot."

Mellencamp said she will see an oncologist next week to develop a treatment plan. Besides raising awareness about the importance of skin checks, she also emphasized the importance of sun protection.

"I continue to share this journey because I was a 90s teen, putting baby oil and iodine on my skin to tan it," she wrote. "Never wearing sunscreen or getting my moles checked until I was 40 years old. This has been such a wakeup call for me, and I hope to all of you, to love and protect the skin you're in."

Understanding your risk

More than 5 million people are treated for skin cancer every year in the United States. It is the most common cancer in young adults.

Despite misconceptions, dermatologists stress that skin cancer is very serious. It can lead to physical disfigurement and death. The three most common types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma typically appears on the head or neck and looks like a shiny pimple that is easily irritated.

Squamous cell carcinoma can be found on the head and neck, as well as the back of hands. It can look like a flat lesion with a rough, scaly surface or a firm red nodule.

Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, the cells that give color to the skin. It is considered the most deadly because it can spread to the lymph nodes and other organs.

When caught early, skin cancer is treatable, oncologists say. Surgery to remove cancerous cells is the primary treatment for most skin cancers. Some cases of basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas only require a simple excision using a local anesthetic. For more complicated cases, more extensive surgery may be needed.

When the cancer metastasizes, chemotherapy, radiation or photodynamic therapy – which uses a combination of laser light and drugs – is also needed.

According to the American Cancer Society, the stage of a cancer describes how much cancer is in the body, which helps doctors determine how to treat it. The stages of melanoma start at stage 0. This means the cancer has not spread from its original spot. Stages 1 to 4 indicate how far the cancer has spread. Generally, in stage 2 melanoma, the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or distant parts of the body.

How to spot cancerous moles

People with a family history of skin cancer or sunburn and anyone on immunosuppressive drugs, are advised to get their skin checked at least twice a year for lesions or suspicious moles. They also are advised to conduct a self-examination once a month.

Dr. Joseph Sobanko, director of dermatologic surgery education at Penn Medicine, previously told PhillyVoice that anyone with a lower risk should still do self-exams and reach out to a dermatologist if they see something concerning.

Any new lesion that bleeds easily or forms a sore that doesn't heal, or old moles that change appearance, should be evaluated by a dermatologist. 

Because moles can turn cancerous, doctors recommend using the ABCDE's of skin cancer to identify concerning moles. Here's how to spot potentially cancerous moles, per the CDC:

Asymmetrical: Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?• Border: Is the border irregular or jagged?• Color: Is the color uneven?• Diameter: Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?• Evolving: Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

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