Melanoma is the most dangerous type
of skin cancer. Although melanoma makes up only 4% of skin cancers, it
causes 77% of skin cancer deaths. About 100,000 cases of melanoma are
diagnosed each year.
Melanoma typically presents as a brown or black spot with irregularities
in symmetry, border and color. Melanoma may develop within an existing
mole or on previously normal appearing skin. Melanoma has a high fatality
rate because its cells can break off and spread throughout the body (metastasize).
When melanoma is caught early, your chances for successful treatment
are much higher.
||(A) Asymmetry - One
half doesn't match the other half.
||(B) Border Irregularity
- The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
||(C) Color - The pigmentation
is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes
of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance.
||(D) Diameter -
The width is greater than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil
eraser). Any growth of a mole should be of concern.
the symmetry, border, color, or diameter of a mole has changed over
The "ABCDE rule" is an easy guide to the usual signs of melanoma.
Be on the look out and promptly notify your primary care physician or
dermatologist about any spots that match the following description. Some
melanomas do not fit the ABCDE rule described above, so it is important
for you to notice changes in skin markings or new spots on your skin.
- A sore that does not heal
- A new growth
- Spread of pigment (color) from the border of a spot to surrounding
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
- Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaling, oozing, bleeding,
or the appearance of a bump or nodule
(click on an
image for a larger view)
|This 38 year old patient noticed that a previously flat mole
had changed and become larger in diameter and protruded outward from
his skin (This fulfills the E for Evolution rule of the ABCDE’s).
|Melanoma can occur in unusual areas, including the hands, feet
and even the eye
|This melanoma is asymmetric, has an irregular border, has multiple
colors within the lesion (brown, black, tan) and is > 0.6cm in