Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that occurs when the pigment-producing cells, known as melanocytes, begin to mutate and divide. Melanocytes are found in many organs, such as the skin and mucous membranes, eyes, ears, nervous system, and GI tract, to name a few.
Sign and Symptoms
Early Detection is Key! Pay close attention to your skin and changes or symptoms of new or existing moles. New moles after 35 years old or moles drastically different from your others (“ugly duckling sign”) should be evaluated. Some signs of melanoma include:
- A-Asymmetry. If you draw a line through the middle of the mole, the two halves don’t match
- B-Border.Uneven and irregular edges
- C-Color. Varied shades of brown, tan, black or even pink may be the first sign of melanoma. As melanomas progress the colors red, white or blue may appear. Amelanotic melanoma can be colorless or light pink and easily missed
- D-Diameter. A larger mole can be a sign of melanoma. Many benign or congenital moles can be large, and melanomas can also be quite small so size alone is not the best indicator of melanoma
- E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or symptoms (such as bleeding, itching, pain or crusting) may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you notice any of these warning signs, see a board-certified dermatologist promptly.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on the skin andnot only where sun-exposure occurs, contrary to popular belief. It is more common in lighter skin individuals but can occur in all skin tones. In men it is most common on the back. In women, the back of the legs is the most common site. Other common sites are the neck and face in elderly patients.
The stage at which a cancer is diagnosed will indicate how far it has already spread and what kind of treatment is suitable.
- Stage 0: Melanoma in-situ- melanoma cells are found only in the top layer of skin, the epidermis.
- Stage I: The melanoma is invasive, but still only in the skin.
- Stage II: Melanomaextending deeper into the dermis, or lower fibrous part of the skin.
- Stage III: Melanoma that has spread locally to a regional lymph node or skin
- Stage IV: Melanoma cells have spread through the bloodstream to other organs such as lung, liver, brain, bone, or gastrointestinal tract.
Surgical excision can be curative in thin melanomas. If melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, an in-depth consultation with an oncologist is best to understand the varied treatment options and utility of genetic testing.
For more information on melanoma and skin cancer screenings, be sure to contact Nova Dermatology today.