Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer.  It is usually curable, if detected early.  If allowed to grow, melanoma can progress, spread throughout the body and lead to death.  According to the American Cancer Society data in 2017, approximately 1 person dies per hour of melanoma.

Melanoma is caused by sun exposure.  Fair-skinned people are at greater risk as well as those with a family history of melanoma.  Some other risk factors include: a history of blistering sunburns, tanning bed use and a large number of moles or atypical (abnormal) moles.

Patients most commonly describe their melanoma as a new or changing dark spot on the skin.  Typically, the melanoma is dark brown-black in color, but it may less often appear red or even flesh-colored to white.  It can occur anywhere on the skin, including areas that have not been exposed to the sun.  Melanoma of the fingers or toes may appear as a dark streak under the nail.

Keep in mind the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma.

–          Asymmetry of the lesion
–          Border – irregular or poorly defined border.
–          Color – variation in color
–          Diameter – melanoma is often greater than 6 mm or the head of a pencil eraser, however, smaller lesions may still be melanoma
–          Evolving – a skin lesion that is changing over time

The best treatment is early detection and diagnosis.  A biopsy is performed to determine if melanoma is present.  Once the diagnosis is made, your doctor will inform you if any additional workup is necessary and review the best treatment based on your individual needs.

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