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Melanoma

The American Cancer Society and Centers for Disease Control estimates over 75,000 new cases of malignant melanoma diagnosed will be diagnosed in 2016.

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Melanomas are very dangerous skin cancers. Approximately five percent (5%) of all skin malignancies are melanomas. Melanoma may spread (metastasize) to other areas of the body, if not detected early, and may eventually kill.

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Images from left to right: Benign mole, Dysplastic mole, Malignant melanoma

The ABCDEF method (see photos above) may help detect melanoma: A (most early melanomas are asymmetrical); B (borders of melanomas are uneven); C (color; varied shades of brown, tan, or black are often the first sign of melanoma); and D (diameter; early melanomas tend to grow larger than common moles, greater than 6 mm in diameter), E (elevation or enlargement, areas of melanoma may be elevated above the level of the adjacent skin and appear as small nodules, itch, ulcerate, or bleed) and F (funny looking skin lesion especially if increasing in size or changing color).

The major risk factors for developing cutaneous melanoma are (in order of decreasing importance): (1) a new mole or pre-existing mole that has changed or is changing, (2) dysplastic moles with a prior personal history of melanoma and familial melanoma history, (3) dysplastic moles, and (4) large congenital moles. Melanoma may develop “de novo” from apparently “normal skin”. People with a history of “blistering” sunburns should be closely examined throughout life for melanomas. Each year, malignant melanoma kills over 110,000 people worldwide. Routine self examination of one’s skin is a very important component of early diagnosis of melanoma.