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It can’t be a melanoma: It’s been there for years.

You should be suspicious of any changing spot on your skin, even if it has been there for many years. 

Longstanding moles can be melanoma: 

Many patients  think that a skin lesion that I am concerned about cannot be a melanoma because they have had that spot for many years.

However, melanomas are often slow growing and can be present for a long time. The spot may grow so slowly that one may not realize it is changing.  Over time,  the melanoma can become thicker.  Thicker melanomas are more likely to spread to internal organs and be problematic.

We want to catch  melanomas when they are early and when they are thin.  Thin melanomas are curable.  Thick melanomas are potentially deadly.

Case in point:  FDR

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, our 32nd president, led us out of the depression and to victory in World War II.  He undoubtedly was one of our greatest presidents.  FDR died of a stroke caused by a cerebral hemorrhage on  April 12, 1945 at the age of 63 years.

Roosevelt  may also have had a melanoma. Note the spot over his left eyebrow.

fdr

In  FDR’s Deadly Secret (2010),  Fettmann and Lomazow point out that this spot grew starting in  1923 and disappeared in 1940 when it most likely was surgically removed.

The authors speculate that FDR’s doctors knew that it was a malignant melanoma, but never made the findings public out of respect for his medical privacy. The authors also speculate that FDR’s melanoma may have spread to his brain causing the cerebral hemorrhage which killed him.  Unfortunately,  Roosevelt’s medical records were “missing” after his death, so the definitive diagnosis is not certain.

(http://www.macleans.ca/culture/books/the-huge-secret-about-fdrs-death/)

I think the spot over Roosevelt’s eyebrow may have very likely been a melanoma.  Melanomas can be present for years and years before they become thicker and cause problems.  Roosevelt’s lesion was present for at least 17 years.

I am not convinced that the spot disappeared in 1940.  I have been watching Ken Burns’ PBS series “The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History” and see the spot in photos taken in 1943 after the alleged surgery.

Also, I am not convinced that FDR died of metastatic melanoma.  The president reportedly had severe cardiovascular  disease and his blood pressure was poorly controlled.  It makes more sense to me that this was the underlying cause of his stroke.  That said, we would not necessary know of changes in Roosevelt’s neurological condition if his melanoma did spread to his brain, eventually causing a cerebral hemorrhage.

Bottom line:

Franklin Delano Roosevelt may have had a malignant melanoma over his eyebrow which he had for at least 17 years.

Look at old photos and see if any moles you have look different over time.  We take full body photographs to help follow moles on patients at high risk for melanoma.

 

Harry Goldin, M.D.

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