Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, begins in skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce the pigment melanin, which determines the color of skin, hair and eyes. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
Melanoma begins on the surface of the skin and can grow down into the skin reaching the blood vessels and spread around the body. When cancer spreads, it is called metastasis. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin but often occurs on sun exposed areas of the body such as arms, face, back and legs.
Melanoma cancer can also occur in the eyes, mouth or the internal organs but this is much rarer than melanoma skin cancer. It is a very dangerous type of cancer, and the patient’s chances of survival often depend on early diagnosis and treatment.
Risk factors for developing melanoma skin cancer may include the following:
A dermatologist will look at your skin for signs of suspicious moles. The “ABCs” of melanoma can also be used by patients to perform a self-check, and if any suspicion, one should make an appointment with their dermatologist immediately.
A – Asymmetry – look for moles that are not symmetric in shape
B – Border – look for moles with irregular or jagged edges
C – Color – look for the presence of more than one color (black, brown, blue) or unevenness of color
D – Diameter- look for lesions >6mm in diameter (greater than the size of a pencil eraser)
E – Evolving – look for any moles that appear to be changing over time
F – Funny-looking. – any mole that worries you should be checked!
Your dermatologist identifies melanoma by visually examining the skin. If any lesions are suspicious, a skin biopsy will be done where a part or the entire lesion will be removed and sent for observation under a microscope..