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Melanoma: Learn Your ABC's of Skin Health

By DuPage Medical Group Dermatology

What is Melanoma?

  • Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocytes, which are the pigment producing cells of the skin.
  • It most commonly occurs in the skin, however, may also be found in the eyes, ears, GI tract, Central Nervous System and in the oral and genital mucous membranes.
  • Melanoma is the most common cancer in women aged 25-29 years and is second only to breast cancer in women aged 30-34 years.
  • This cancer is more likely to occur on areas that are less often exposed and more frequently burned, such as the backs of men and the legs of women.
  • It can be fatal if it is neglected, therefore, early detection and prompt removal of Melanoma can save a life.

What are the risk factors?

  • If you are older than 20 years of age, especially if you are over 60.
  • Fair complexion, inability to tan, and a history of sunburns.
  • Numerous moles, changing moles, or a history of atypical moles.
  • A personal or family history of Melanoma (first-degree relative).
  • A personal or family history of Basal cell or Squamous Cell Carcinoma (other common skin cancers).

Where to Look

  • White women: Upper back and lower legs, arms, head, and neck.
  • White men: Upper back, chest, abdomen, arms, head and neck.
  • Melanoma is rare in people with darker skin tones. It may occur on the palms, soles, or in the nail beds.

Warning Signs of Melanoma

  • New, changing, or unusual moles (Most moles appear by age 30, but adults can develop new ones throughout adulthood).
  • Moles that become symptomatic (itching, burning, painful).
  • An initial slow horizontal growth phase (The mole appears to spread wider on the skin’s surface). If untreated, this will be followed by a vertical growth phase which indicates invasive disease and potential metastasis.
  • Prognosis is based on the thickness of the tumor.

Perform a Monthly Self Skin Examination

  • Check yourself on a monthly basis.
  • Report any lesion that is red, scaling, scabbing, bleeding, and/or non-healing, especially if it lasts longer than one month.
  • Wear of sunscreen SPF 30+ to all exposed areas of skin each day. Re-apply every 90-120 minutes when outside. Wear hats, sunglasses, etc.
  • Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma detection.

ABCDEs of melanoma detection

“A” is for Asymmetry- A mole in which one half does not match the other.

“B” is for irregular Border- A mole with a scalloped or poorly defined border.

“C” is for varied Color - A mole that consists of multiple shades of black, brown, white, red, and/or blue.

“D” is for Diameter - A mole that has a diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser.

“E” is for Evolution - A mole whose size, shape, or color changes over time




Topics and Subtopics: Skin Health & Cancer

Learn more about:
Dermatology Oncology
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