Melanoma is a skin cancer where the melanocytes
or cells that produce the pigment melanin, become cancerous. About
one-third of melanoma develop from existing moles or dark spots
on the skin.
Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, but the most worrisome.
Symptoms of Melanoma
In most cases of melanoma, moles that become cancerous show the
following "ABCD" characteristics:
- Asymmetry of shape
- Border irregularity
Ragged or notched edges
- Color variation or mottling
Various shades of brown, blue or black
- Diameter greater than a pencil eraser
Two forms of melanoma, however, do not show the features above.
These melanomas and their symptoms are:
- Nodular melanoma
The symptoms of nodular melanoma are:
- New mole
- Symmetrical in shape
- Sharp and even border
- Brown or dark in color
- Dome shape
- Amelanotic melanoma
Color is the defining characteristic - amelanotic melanoma have
the following colors:
Melanoma can occur at any part of the body.
Who Gets It?
Melanoma is most common in people with fair, white skin, especially
those that easily get sunburns. Indeed, a history of severe and
blistering sunburns greatly increase the risk of developing this
However, people with dark skin and even black people can get
melanoma (often on the palm, sole of the feet, and under the nails).
About 38,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with melanoma
each year, and about 7,600 will die from it.
Prevention of Melanoma
Melanoma and other forms of skin cancer can be prevented by:
- Avoiding sun damage to the skin and sunburn
- Avoiding being outdoors while the sun is most intense (11
am to 3 pm)
- Avoiding suntanning
- Wearing clothes and hats that prevent sun exposure
- Using lotion with SPF (sun protection factor) of at least
As early detection is important, perform self-examination of
your skin once a month, especially if you have a family history
of melanoma, with the following things in mind:
- Examine the entire body, including the scalp and soles of
- Pay particular attention to existing moles for the aforementioned
- Examine for new moles and unusual spots on the body
What Will Happen to Suspected Melanoma?
A mole that have any of the the ABCD characteristics should be
seen by a doctor, who will perform a biopsy to see if its cancerous.
If a melanoma is diagnosed, then the following follow-up examinations
are done to see the extent of the disease:
- Liver function test
- Chest x-ray
- Tracer dye studies to
- Lymph node biopsy
- CT scan or computed tomography scan
Treatments of Melanoma?
When detected early, melanoma can be surgically removed under
local anesthesia. Melanoma that has metastasized or spread internally
would require chemotherapy and other conventional treatment for
If treated early, melanoma treatment has a 95% rate of success.
However, if the cancer has spread internally, the prognosis is