If you Googled “What does Melanoma look like” and ended up here, you’re in the right place. We receive hundreds of calls each week from people in the exact position you are in right now. If you’ve noticed a new spot or lesion or noticed a change in the appearance of one you’ve had for a while, you’re likely wondering if it could be skin cancer. Read on to learn more about Malignant Melanoma, from ABCDE to Z.
What is Malignant Melanoma?
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer of the cells that produce the dark, protective pigment in your skin (melanin). Melanoma may affect anyone at any age and can occur anywhere on the body. An increased risk of developing this disease is seen in people who have fair skin, light hair and eye color, or who have a family or personal history of melanoma. Melanoma has the ability to spread to other organs, making it essential to recognize and treat this skin cancer early.
What does Melanoma look like?
Individual lesions may appear as a dark brown, black, or multi-colored growth with irregular borders that can become crusted and bleed. Tumors can arise in or near a pre-existing mole, or appear out of nowhere with no warning.
When it comes to early detection of Melanoma – and other skin cancers – our Dermatologists in Sarasota, Venice, and surrounding areas will tell you that self-monitoring is critical. Where Melanoma is concerned, you need to know your ABCs.
One half of the mole or lesion does not match the other.
B BORDER IRREGULARITY
The outside edges of the spot are notched or ragged.
Varied shades of tan, black, and brown.
Typically greater than 6 millimeters.
Changes in size, shape, or shade/color.
Can Melanoma be prevented?
The American Cancer Society reports that at least 90 percent of skin cancer is caused by overexposure to the sun. Limiting skin exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is a top measure for prevention. Wear wide-brim hats and protective, tightly woven clothing (you can find some of our staff’s favorite UV blocking apparel and accessories here).
In addition to limiting sun exposure and covering up, we cannot stress enough the importance of using sunscreen daily and reapplying often! And we’re not just talking about sunscreen when you’re heading out to the beautiful beaches of Siesta Key, or spending a day fishing on Anna Maria Island. We mean eh-ver-ry-day, rain or shine. Choose a sunscreen with a protection factor of 30SPF at minimum, and reapply often – especially if you’re in or on the water. We’ve put together a handy guide on sunscreen and shared some of our top SPF picks here.
Detecting, Diagnosing, and Treating Melanoma
Detecting melanoma early can be lifesaving, and it starts at home, with you. Inspect your entire body routinely for any changes and make visiting your dermatologist a priority. Any irregularity in a new or existing mole or lesion (remember your ABCs) could be a sign of trouble and should be examined immediately by a trained dermatology expert.
Your dermatologist should complete a thorough examination of your skin, often using a dermatoscope (a handheld device that uses light and magnification to examine the skin in more detail). Areas of concern will be sent for biopsy, where a trained dermatopathologist will carefully examine the sample and determine if cancer is present. Upon receiving the results, your dermatologist will contact you and form a treatment plan.
Treatment of Melanoma varies and is determined by the location, extent of spreading, and aggressiveness of the tumor, as well as your general health. Forms of treatment for melanoma typically include surgical excision, Mohs Micrographic Surgery, and in some cases chemotherapy and radiation. In cases where cancer has spread, it may be necessary to remove lymph nodes. Your dermatologist will help you understand the treatment options.
With three Fellowship-Trained Mohs Micrographic Surgeons (Cary L Dunn, MD, Harib Ezaldein, MD, and Shauntell Solomon, DO) Luminary Dermatology is home to some of the best and brightest dermatologists in their field. If you have an unusual mole or irregular spot that needs the attention of a trained specialist, please contact us today. Next-day appointments are available in many of our locations across greater Sarasota county, South Dade, and now in Edmond, Oklahoma. Remember, early detection could very well save your life.