Save Your Skin from Melanoma
Melanoma causes the most fatalities of all skin cancers, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation. But early detection and treatment can literally "save your skin."

What Is It?

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that forms in the cells that make melanin, the pigment that colors our skin, hair and eyes. It usually originates in a mole, but sometimes forms in other pigmented tissues, such as the eyes or intestines.

How to Spot Four Common Types

According to The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there are four common types of melanoma. Here's what to look for:

1. Superficial Spreading Melanoma

  • Look for a mole with irregular borders. In the early stages it may look like a freckle or flat spot that spreads sideways. The spot may darken or lighten over time.

2. Nodular Melanoma

  • Look for a darkly pigmented lesion, although sometimes it can be light brown or colorless. The lesion may be ulcerated and bleed.

3. Lentigo Maligna Melanoma

  • Look for a spreading flat patch with irregular borders in various shades of black and brown. As lentigo maligna melanomas grow, the pigmentation and borders become more irregular. Dark, lumpy-feeling nodules—the invasive tumor—may appear within the irregular borders.

4. Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

  • Look for an irregularly shaped tan, brown or black spot on the palm or sole; nosebleeds, nasal stuffiness and a pigmented mass inside the mouth; a mass on the mucous membranes of the anus, urinary tract or female genitalia; or a narrow, dark stripe under a fingernail or toenail.

Detecting Melanoma—Easy as ABCDE

The AAD recommends seeing your dermatologist immediately if any moles or pigmented spots on your body exhibit:

A— Asymmetrical shape. One half is different from the other.

B— Border is irregular, scalloped or poorly defined. 

C— Color varies from one area of the mole to another. 

D— Diameter. Melanoma diameters are usually larger than 1/4 inch, but they can be smaller. 

E— Evolving. The mole or skin lesion looks different from the rest or changes in size, shape or color.

Treatment Options

Your treatment will be based on the stage, type, size, location and depth of the tumor; your age and general health; and the likely cosmetic outcome.

  • Early stage: surgical excision.

  • Later stage possibilities: surgical excision and removing affected lymph nodes, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy/biochemotherapy, gene therapy, amputation of affected fingers/toes, drugs/vaccines or clinical trials.
For more information visit The American Cancer Society, The Skin Cancer Foundation, The American Academy of Dermatology and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.