Why it pays to know about melanoma

People ask why it’s so important to understand as much about melanoma as possible. If you find a suspicious, new mole or have a strange gut feeling about one that’s been there, get it checked out. Don’t second guess yourself. If your doc says ‘no worries’ and you still feel a bit concerned, insist on a biopsy or ask to be referred to a dermatologist.  Based on the statistics and increasing melanoma cases, no one will be surprised you’re being careful.

People with lots of moles are most prone, but that’s not a hard, fast rule. Here again are the basic guidelines to follow for odd-looking moles which could be melanoma. Perhaps the best thing to remember is that the melanoma looks bad and unhealthy. Kevin’s looked like someone drew on his scalp with a Sharpie. It didn’t look cute. Think of dark spots on cilantro or leafy veggies. Melanoma does not have to be black. The guidelines below are general.

Melanoma can also appear in fingernails (which generally looks like a dark stripe right down your fingernail), on the sole of your foot, palm of your hand, or areas where ‘the sun don’t shine’. These more obscure areas, while less common, can be particularly dangerous because they go unnoticed. Melanoma can also develop in the eye, the digestive tract, and other areas of the body. UV exposure seems to be  the common link, as well as having a lot of moles. Not all moles turn into melanoma. The important thing is to be diligent and to avoid UV exposure from the sun or tanning booths.

When melanoma develops in men, it is often found on the head, neck, or back. When melanoma develops in women, it is often found on the back or on the lower legs.

People with dark skin are much less likely than people with fair skin to develop melanoma. When it does develop in people with dark skin, it is often found under the fingernails, under the toenails, on the palms of the hands, or on the soles of the feet.

What does melanoma look like? (ABCDE – an acronym that never helps me, but maybe it will help you?)

  • Asymmetric: Often melanoma is a dark spot that is not in a neat circle or oval – one half of the mole or spot doesn’t match the other half

  • Border is irregular: Edges are often ragged, blotched or blurred. The pigment may change as it goes into surrounding skin.

  • Color is uneven: shades of black, brown and tan may all be present in one lesion. Red, grey, white, pink or blue tints may also be present

  • Diameter: The size changes, usually increasing. Moles stay the same. Melanomas can be very small, but most are about the size of a pencil eraser or larger.

  • Evolving: The mole changes over time – weeks, months or even years.

If you’re still curious, educate yourself on what an abnormal mole looks like. Google “melanoma” to view examples.

 Here’s a linke to Cancer.gov for more info: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/moles







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