The epidermis of the skin contains three main types of cells: basal cells, squamous cells and melanocytes, which produce a brown pigment called melanin. When melanocytes become cancerous, they cause melanoma, the most lethal form of skin cancer.
What Are the Symptoms?
Melanoma can develop almost anywhere, but it is most likely to develop on places that get a lot of exposure to the sun, such as the face, arms or legs. The most common symptoms are either changes in a mole or the development of a new odd-looking or pigmented growth on the skin.
Researchers have devised two methods for spotting a possible melanoma: the Ugly Duckling Sign and the ABCDEs. Scientists introduced the Ugly Duckling Sign in the late 1990s when they noticed normal moles on a given patient resemble each other the way siblings do. A melanoma will look different; it might be bigger or smaller than the normal moles, or it might be a different color.
The ABCDEs also require the patient to examine their moles. The researchers that developed the system noticed that cancerous growths tend to have certain characteristics:
• A for Asymmetry – A normal mole will have two halves that match, while a cancerous mole will not.
• B for Border – A benign mole has an even, regular and distinct border. A melanoma will have an irregular and jagged border.
• C for Color – A normal mole will be all one color, typically brown. A melanoma will be a mixture of colors that can include red, white, blue, black, brown or tan.
• D for Diameter – Benign moles are typically smaller than melanomas, which usually have a diameter greater than that of a pencil or around ¼ inch.
• E for Evolving – Normal moles do not change over time; they always look the same. Melanomas change; they can turn colors or get bigger over time. Cancerous moles may also start itching or bleeding.
What Is a Hidden Melanoma?
This develops on a place that doesn’t get much exposure to the sun and that most people therefore do not check. They can occur between the toes, under nails or on the palms or genitals. Hidden melanomas are more common in people with dark skin.
Why Is It So Dangerous?
Skin cancer in general is the most common form of cancer in the United States. While melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, about 144,000 people in the United States are still diagnosed with it every year. In addition, 10,000 Americans die from it every year, which means someone dies from this condition every hour of every day.
Melanoma is the only skin cancer that metastasizes, which means it spreads to other tissues or organs. Unlike many cancers, this cancer is common in young people. It is the most common cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 25 and 30. The incidence of melanoma in people under 30 has been growing far more quickly than in any other age group.
If you or someone you love has melanoma, visit Metro Dermatology, with locations in Elmhurst, Flushing, Englewood and the Bronx. After evaluating your condition, our team of professionals can come up with a treatment plan for you. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.