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Model and mother Slick Woods revealed this week that she is undergoing chemotherapy to deal with an undisclosed illness. Though people speculated and wondered about what her actual condition was, the 23-year-old reportedly told TheShadeRoom that she’s battling malignant melanoma that has advanced to stage three.

According to the site, “She exclusively tells us that she is battling Stage 3 melanoma cancer and that the cancer is spreading. She says she’s currently fighting for her life.”

And while the beauty has told people that she doesn’t want to be treated like a victim, fans are concerned. It’s understandably worrying because melanoma is a serious disease. To be clear, it’s actually the most serious form of skin cancer and there are more than 200,000 cases of it in the U.S. alone. So what exactly is this disease the model is battling? We reached out to Shari Sperling, DO, a board certified dermatologist practicing in Florham Park, NJ. She answered our five main questions about melanoma.

What causes melanoma?

“Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer,” she said. “There’s a genetic component to it but also due to increased sun exposure. It starts with a mole on your body. Either a new one will develop or a pre-existing one will change. Check your body regularly and see a board certified dermatologist to get evaluated.”

Can you have changes in your moles that aren’t necessarily caused by cancer?

“Yes. Mole is a general term,” she said. “There are things that develop with age such as seborrheic keratosis, which is a benign growth. There are also irregular moles like a dysplastic nevus which has irregular cells. That’s why it’s important to get regularly checked by a board certified dermatologist and get a skin biopsy if necessary.”

Though it’s more common for white people to be impacted by melanoma, is this something that African Americans need to be more on alert about?

“Yes. Bob Marley died from melanoma,” she said. “It’s a false sense of security thinking that darker skin can protect you. There are a few types of Melanoma; acral lentinginous is a type of Melanoma that is more common in dark-skinned individuals that occurs on the hands and feet.”

What type of treatment does someone at stage 3 like Slick Woods need?

“It really depends on the stage and sub-category. Surgical removal of the skin lesion itself with a margin of normal skin is the first part of treatment. Chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy are usually needed when treating Stage 3 Melanoma.”

Can you speak on chances of survival?

“There are different stages so it depends,” she said. “According to the American Cancer Society, the five year survival rate for Stage 3 Melanoma is between 40-78%.”

We’re continuing to hope for the best for the model, who is handling the news she shared by keeping the same confident, bold attitude fans have come to love her for.

As for the rest of us, we need to do our best to protect our skin when dealing with the sun, that includes wearing sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and steering clear of the sun when it’s at its most intense, which is usually in the middle of the day.

Here’s to a speedy recovery for the fashion star. Hit the flip for reactions to the news of her health by hitting the flip:

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