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How to Recognize Malignant Melanoma – THE Skin Cancer You Don’t Want to Miss

How to Recognize Malignant Melanoma – THE Skin Cancer You Don’t Want to Miss

Most adults knows someone with skin cancer who’s lived to tell about it. There are many kinds of skin cancer that are curable by surgical excision. However, there is one you don’t want to miss: malignant melanoma.

A suspicious mole is usually the first clue to malignant melanoma. But what makes a mole suspicious?

Many, perhaps most people have a mole or two, often since childhood. Some people have dozens to hundreds. The typical mole that appears in childhood or young adult life is flat or slightly elevated and of a uniform color (flesh colored, tan, light brown, medium brown, dark brown, rarely black). The color of the mole depends somewhat on your underlying skin tone. Darker-pigmented individuals, that is, those with more melanin in the skin to begin with, are more likely to have darker moles. Also, the shape of benign moles is generally symmetric, with a smooth border.

A mole suspicious for skin cancer may exhibit the following characteristics:

It may occur in people who have a family history of malignant melanoma (but not always)
It is enlarging.
The color is changing, becoming darker or more uneven.
The border has become ragged or irregular.
The shape is no longer symmetric.
The mole develops itching or bleeding.

One mnemonic for remembering the above is ABCDE

Asymmetrical
Border is irregular.
Color is not uniform (however very light-skinned individuals may have very light-colored melanomas)
Diameter is greater than 6 mm (although smaller moles may also be malignant)
Enlarging (or evolving, or elevating)

Do you have 75 friends? One of them will develop malignant melanoma during his or her lifetime, according to the journal, American Family Physician (Nov. 15, 2000). If the cancer is detected early, it can be surgically removed with little chance of further disease.

However, if the cancer is detected late, after it’s already spread, odds of long-term survival are only 5%, even with chemotherapy.

How to Recognize Malignant Melanoma – THE Skin Cancer You Don’t Want to Miss

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