Understanding and identifying Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the melanocytes (pigment-producing cells of the skin). Melanoma is less common than Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas, though it is far more dangerous. If not treated early, Melanoma can rapidly spread to other tissues and affect the organs of the body. When identifying Melanoma, it’s important to check the skin properly for signs of skin cancer, paying attention to moles too. If a mole has changed in appearance in some way, like in shape, colour, size or texture, this could be an indication of melanoma development. Though contrary to what many assume, melanoma is more prevalent in normal skin than moles (only about 30% of cases are moles). Though it’s important to check both the normal skin and moles for signs of Melanoma to ensure early detection and effective treatment.

Who’s at risk?

Darker skin contains more eumelanin (dark pigment that protects skin from the sun) than fairer skin, so naturally, light-skinned people are more at risk for developing melanoma than dark-skinned people. This does not mean that dark-skinned people should not do their skin cancer checks. Even though dark skin is less susceptible to melanoma onset, it’s still at risk.  

Checking moles and lesions for Melanoma

An easy way to remember what to look for when checking moles and lesions for signs of skin cancer is to resight “ABCDE”, as follows: 

A for asymmetry

If you look at the mole or lesion in two separate halves, take note of the symmetry between both sides. Do they match? Or does one side look different from the other? Melanoma may affect one side of the mole or lesion, so be vigilant when performing this check.

B for border irregularity

Inspect the edges of the mole or lesion for any ragged or blurred looking areas. If the pigment is spreading into the surrounding skin, this may be a sign of Melanoma.

C for colour irregularity

Take a look at the colour of the mole or lesion. Is it consistent, or irregular? If it displays any colour unevenness, like blotches of black, brown, tan, or even white, red, pink, grey or blue, this is a likely indication of Melanoma.

D for diameter change

Keep an eye on the mole or lesion over a few weeks, and notice if it’s growing in size. A change in size can be a sign of Melanoma development, typically if the mole or lesion has grown larger in size. 

E for evolving

Observe the mole or lesion over a few weeks, and notice if it had changed in any way. A Melanoma can appear differently in different cases, so keep in mind that a change of any kind can be a red flag. 

Treating Melanoma

Despite the dangers of Melanoma, treatments today offer a promising prognosis for many patients. When caught early, the Melanoma is often curable, allowing the patient to resume a normal quality of life. Depending on the stage of the skin cancer and its location, a doctor will recommend one or several of the following treatments:

  • Surgical removal
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

Don’t ignore it, report it

If a Melanoma gets detected and treated early, remission and survival is the likely outcome. So, if you notice any abnormalities in your skin, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us to book a consultation with Dr Noks.