Because of its rapid spread, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. When pigmented cells begin dividing uncontrollably they form malignant tissue in the form of a tumor on the surface of the skin. If a mole on your body changes shape, color, size, or feeling, you should contact a dermatologist immediately to rule out malignant melanoma as a cause.
The easiest way to detect melanoma is to think of the ABCDEs of moles. The letters stand for: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolving. If one half of a mole looks different than the other in shape, it is asymmetrical. The border on a safe mole will be crisply outlined; if it is not, it could be dangerous. Moles should also be all one color; multiple tones in a single mole may be indicative of melanoma. If the diameter is over 1/4 inch, there is a chance a mole is cancerous. Lastly, if a mole evolves in any way — changing shape, color, texture, etc. — it should be checked by a dermatologist. In addition, if any mole itches, oozes, or bleeds it should be checked immediately as all of these are potential warning signs for melanoma.
There are many treatment options for melanoma including, but not limited to, surgery, chemotherapy, and targeted therapy. A dermatologist can give advice and provide resources for any treatment not available in the clinic. Treatment will be largely dependent on how far the disease progressed before detection.
The most effective way to stay safe when it comes to melanoma is to take preventative action before it becomes a problem. Wearing sunscreen year round and avoiding the sun when it is at its strongest is critical to keeping skin safe. Tanning beds should be avoided as well. In addition, be familiar with how your skin looks and all the freckles and moles on your body so you can notice any changes and bring them up when you visit your dermatologist.