The most dangerous form of skin cancer, these cancerous growths occur when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that cause the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes found in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often look like moles; some actually develop from existing moles. The majority of lesions are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused primarily by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), and is especially a risk in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease. Melanoma kills an estimated 10,130 people in the US annually.
If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable—otherwise, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes difficult to treat and can be fatal. While it is not the most common skin cancer, it causes the most deaths. In 2016, an estimated 76,380 of melanomas will be invasive, with about 46,870 in males and 29,510 in women.
Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are often harmless — but not always. Anyone with more than 100 moles faces a higher risk for melanoma. The first signs may appear in one or more atypical moles. That’s why it’s very important to pay close attention to your skin so that you can recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCD signs of melanoma included below, and if you see one or more, schedule an appointment with a physician immediately.
Common, benign moles do not change in appearance over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to change or develop in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a physician. Any change — whether in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting — is evidence of danger.
The benign mole shown on the left is not asymmetrical. If you were to draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match, meaning that it is symmetrical. If you do the same with the mole on the right, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical—a strong warning sign for melanoma.
- Asymmetry—one half doesn’t match the other half
- Border—edges are blurred or ragged
- Color—uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
- Diameter—a change in size (usually greater than 6mm, about the size of a pencil’s eraser)
If you have concerns about changing moles,positive ersonal or family history for melanoma please schedule appointment to be examined at Mirage Medical Group. Our providers will use the most sophisticated method for noninvasive mole assessment and monitoring (advanced dermoscopy and mole mapping) and either assure you that it is harmless, or that it needs to be followed closely with dermoscopy or through sending a biopsy (sample of the mole) to a lab.