Of the three most common skin cancers, Melanoma is the most serious. Melanomas can develop anywhere but most often occur on the trunk (chest and back) in men and on the legs in women, though this pattern may be changing due to tanning bed use. The face and neck are also common locations for melanoma. Originating in the melanocytes which are the pigment-producing cells of the skin, most melanomas appear dark brown or black but can also appear blue, pink or even white. Since color is not a reliable way of knowing whether there is cause for concern, it is important to know the other features of melanoma.
What are the signs of melanoma?
The “ABCDE’s” are a mnemonic for the worrisome features of a mole or growth. If someone has a growth that is Asymmetrical (not uniform in all directions), has Border irregularity (such as a jagged outline), Color variation (multiple colors is usually concerning), a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or is Evolving over time (a growth that is changing such as increasing in size or getting darker), then that growth warrants evaluation by a dermatologist. Dermatologists also talk about the “ugly duckling” sign – if someone has a growth or a mole that is unlike any other mole on their body, it warrants a second look.
Melanoma: am I at risk?
Melanomas usually develop on people with light skin; however, any person, regardless of age, race, ethnicity or skin color can develop melanoma. African Americans most often develop melanoma on the hands, soles of the feet and under the nails. Although rare, melanoma can also develop in the eye or on the genitals.
Risk factors for developing melanoma include sun exposure, a history of sun burn, the presence of atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), family history of melanoma, personal history of any skin cancer, light skin tone, a compromised immune system, and certain genetic conditions.
“In situ” melanoma is melanoma within the epidermis – the highest or most superficial layer of the skin. Melanoma in situ is almost always curable by excision or Mohs surgery alone. Invasive melanomas can metastasize or spread to other organs and become more dangerous as they grow deeper. Melanoma kills roughly 10,000 people a year. Early detection is critical for survival. Any new or changing spots should be examined by a Board-Certified Dermatologist.
Why Choose Premier Dermatology for Mohs Surgery on Melanoma?
Premier Dermatology is proud to offer true Mohs Micrographic Surgery for the treatment of melanoma. Because Mohs surgery for melanoma requires a more specialized lab than Mohs surgery for basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, most Mohs surgeons send melanoma cases to an outside lab for pathological testing. Sending specimens out results in the melanoma being removed and repaired on different days, often over the course of a week or more. In contrast, an on-site lab performing special stains for melanoma allows same-day treatment of most melanomas and can prevent prolonged treatment or delays.