What Does Melanoma Look Like?

October 3, 2016

Melanoma accounts for only about 4% of all skin cancer cases, but it is the most dangerous, causing about 79% of skin cancer deaths. Since most of the melanoma and non-melanoma cases are directly related to sun exposure, skin cancer prevention and awareness education could greatly reduce the number of those affected.

Texas ranks third in the nation for malignant melanoma.

What Does Melanoma Look Like?

If you are able to identify the warning signs of melanoma, early detection and treatment can often resolve the problem. Here’s how to spot melanoma if you see it. It’s referred to as the ABCDEs of melanoma detection.

  • Asymmetry – One half looks different from the other half.
  • Border – Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
  • Color – Varied from one area to another; shades of tan, brown or black; sometimes white, red or blue.
  • Diameter – While melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
  • Evolving – A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

How to Protect Your Skin from Skin Cancer

  • Take precautions and avoid overexposure to sun when you’re outside.
  • Avoid tanning beds altogether.
  • Do regular self-exams for new or unusual moles, freckles or lesions.
  • Have annual check-ups with your dermatologist, the same way you have annual medicals.
  • Know your skin and recognize any distinctive changes in moles or lesions.

Skin Care Awareness

Anyone who has an increased risk of developing melanoma must be particularly vigilant. If any of these risk factors apply to you–light eyes, hair, and/or skin; freckles; many moles; personal or family history of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer; sun sensitivity; inability to tan; repeated and intermittent sunburns; a very large mole present at birth, or dysplastic nevi – you should be particularly aware of your skin.

How Melanoma Is Treated

There are many effective treatments for eliminating skin cancer. For many people, skin cancer surgical treatment is the preferred treatment method and includes removal by excision or by performing Mohs micrographic surgery.

Some forms of skin cancer may be treated non-surgically using topical creams, liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery), curettage, light-based treatments or laser treatments. If you are unable to tolerate surgery, superficial radiation therapy may be recommended and provides excellent cure rates.

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