What is Melanoma? Melanoma is cancer of the cells that give rise to the color of skin. The number of cases of melanoma is increasing faster than any other cancer. Melanoma is commonly seen between the ages of 30 to 60. It is found primarily on sun-exposed areas of fair skinned individuals. The back is the most commonly found location for this cancer in men as opposed to the legs for women. Your risk for developing melanoma is typically higher if you have red or blonde hair, green or blue eyes, family history of melanoma, or have a new mole appearing after the age of 30.
Any pigmented skin lesion with recent change in appearance should be inspected. An easy guide to identify those suspicious lesions is the ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetrical: not circular
- Borders: irregular notched, or uneven
- Color: multicolor, white or blue is especially bad
- Diameter: greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser)
- Evolving: the lesion shows growth
A mole that bleeds, feels numb, or has a crusty surface may also hint at melanoma. Any palpable lymph node is usually a late manifestation.
If a lesion is suspicious for melanoma, your doctor will do a biopsy and refer you to a specialist for further evaluation. Early treatment of melanoma is the key to a successful outcome. If you detect any of the ABCDE signs or see any abnormal skin changes, call your doctor right away. If you delay, melanoma can spread quickly and be fatal. Have your doctor examine your skin regularly, especially if you have any of the above mentioned risk factors.