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:

    • Red
    • White
    • Purple

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 condition.

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 15

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 the feet
  • Pay particular attention to existing moles for the aforementioned ABCD signs
  • 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 cancer.


If treated early, melanoma treatment has a 95% rate of success. However, if the cancer has spread internally, the prognosis is poor.

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