Melanoma, also called Malignant Melanoma, is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. This cancer can rise from already developed moles or appear as new lesions. These growths are caused by damaged skin cells (usually damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds) that mutate and rapidly multiply, forming malignant tumors. The tumors form in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the skin.
Most melanomas appear black or brown, but they can also be skin colored, pink, red, purple, blue, or white. They can form anywhere on the body including the mouth, back of the eyeball, under nails, and genitals. Melanoma kills an estimated 10,000 people in the United States annually.
The good news is that, with early detection and treatment, melanoma is almost always curable.
Melanoma can show up on your body in different ways. You may see a:
Dermatologists encourage people of all skin colors to perform skin self-exams. Checking your skin can help you find melanoma early when it’s highly treatable. When examining your skin for melanoma, you want to look for the warning signs, which are called the ABCDEs of melanoma:
A melanoma may only have 1 or 2 of the ABCDEs. If you find anything that looks like it could be melanoma, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist. These doctors are the experts at diagnosing skin cancer. Research shows that dermatologists correctly diagnose melanoma more than any other type of doctor.
You can have melanoma without feeling any pain or discomfort. For many people, the only sign is a change to their skin, scalp, or nail.
Sometimes, melanoma causes one of more of the following:
Being proactive is one of the best tools in combating melanoma. Perform self skin checks and create a body mole map. When checking your skin, you want to make sure you check everywhere.
Who gets melanoma?
Anyone can get melanoma. Most people who get melanoma have light skin, but people who have brown and black skin also get melanoma.
Your risk of getting melanoma increases if you:
While exposure to UV light greatly increases your risk of developing melanoma, your other characteristics also play a role. These include:
Having light-colored skin, hair, or eyes or certain moles. The risk of getting melanoma increases if you have one or more of the following:
Taking certain medications or having some medical conditions. Your risk of getting melanoma increases if you have:
Because UV exposure is the leading cause of melanoma, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting melanoma by taking steps to prevent skin cancer.