What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a less common form of skin cancer than basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.  However, it is also the most deadly, being expected to kill about 10,000 people in 2016.  For this reason, it is critical for all individuals to conduct regular, thorough skin checks and to have any suspicious or new growths evaluated by a board certified dermatologist.  With early detection and treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is nearly 100 percent.

Types of Melanoma

Superficial Spreading Melanoma – This is by far the most common form of melanoma and makes up about 70 percent of all cases.  Most commonly witnessed in young people, this particular form of melanoma will spread across the surface of the skin for an extended period of time before penetrating more deeply.  These typically appear as flat or raised patches on the skin, come in varying colors such as brown, black, red or white, and may have irregular borders.

Lentigo Melanoma – This form of melanoma is more often diagnosed in elderly patients and also grows slowly along the skin’s surface.  These typically appear in areas of chronically sun-exposed, damaged skin.  Common locations include the ears, face, arms, and upper body.  They may be flat or raised and often have a brown, dark brown, or mottled tan appearance.

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma – This is the most common form of melanoma in patients of African American descent.  Also a superficial spreading form of melanoma, this particular type has more unique identifying factors.  It typically appears as a brown or black discoloration on the nails, palms of the hands, or soles of the feet.

Nodular Melanoma – This is the most invasive and deadly form of melanoma and accounts for 10-20 percent of all cases.  The first outward indication of nodular melanoma is usually a bump that is black in color, although it may also be blue, gray, brown, white, red, or flesh-colored.  By the time this melanoma is identified, it is typically already an invasive form.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma

Knowing how to distinguish potential melanomas from normal skin lesions is critical in prevention and when performing skin checks.  These are the factors to watch out for, otherwise known as the ABCDEs of melanoma:

·        Asymmetry – One half of the lesion is not like the other

·        Border – The borders are irregular and poorly defined

·        Color – Multiple colors within one lesion such as brown, black, tan, white, or red

·        Diameter – Larger than 6mm, or the size of a pencil eraser

·        Evolving – A lesion that is changing in size, shape, or color

Keep in mind that not all melanomas will meet this criteria, but they represent a good indication of a lesion that should be investigated further.  If you suspect any mole or mark for any reason or have a new growth that suddenly appears, have it checked.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

While melanoma can affect anyone, there are certain factors which put some groups at a higher risk than others:

·        Light skin, hair, and eyes

·        Skin that freckles or burns in the sun

·        A history of blistering sunburns or indoor tanning

·        Previous melanoma or skin cancer

·        A weakened immune system

Learn More about Melanoma

If you have a mole or other growth that is new or fits the above criteria, it should be quickly inspected by a dermatologist.  To determine if you have melanoma, what type, and what treatment option is ideal, schedule your consultation and treatment with our Baton Rouge dermatologist, Dr. Chad Prather or one of our Lafayette dermatologists.