Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It is the most serious type of skin cancer because melanomas have a tendency to spread quickly to other parts of the body (metastasize).
Melanoma begins when melanocytes (pigment cells) in the skin become more abnormal and start to divide without control or order. These abnormal cells can invade and destroy the normal cells around them. The abnormal cells form a growth of malignant tissue (a cancerous tumor) on the surface of the skin.
Most melanomas appear as dark growths similar to moles, but some may be skin-colored.
Melanoma can begin as a new growth on the skin, or develop from an existing mole (nevi) that changes size, shape, feeling, or color.
Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
Often, the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Most melanomas have a black or blue-black area. Melanoma also may appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal, or “ugly looking.”
In more advanced melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. For example, it may become hard or lumpy. Melanomas may feel different from regular moles. More advanced tumors may itch, ooze, or bleed. But melanomas are not usually painful.
Changes in the skin, such as a change in a mole, should be reported to the health care provider right away. The person may be referred to a dermatologist.
A monthly skin self-exam is very important for people with any risk factors of developing skin cancer, but routine skin self-exams are a good idea for everyone.
Keep in mind the ABCDEs of melanoma detection.
- Asymmetry. Does one half of a mole look different from the other?
- Border. Is the edge (border) of the mole ragged, notched, or blurred?
- Color. Does the mole have a variety of hues or colors within the same lesion?
- Diameter. Is the mole wider than 6mm or 1/4 inch?
- Evolving. Does the mole or skin lesion look different from your other moles or has it changed in shape color, size or other trait?
If you see a mole or new spot on your skin that has any of the ABCDEs, immediately make an appointment to see your doctor.
For more information on melanoma, please click here.