How Common Is Melanoma
Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the great majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Its one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.
Melanoma incidence has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that increasing levels of ultraviolet exposure are one of the main reasons for this rapid rise in the number of melanoma cases.
What Does Scalp Melanoma Look Like
Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of cancer, and because its appearance can closely mimic natural moles, freckles, and age spots, it can be easy to overlook. Its important to know what to look for and perform regular skin cancer screenings to ensure you receive treatment for this condition in the earliest stages. According to Dr. Gregory Walker of U.S. Dermatology Partners in Waco, Texas, Melanoma can be easily overlooked in obvious places on the body, but many people dont know that the scalp, fingernails and toenails, and other harder to see areas often hide this condition until it has progressed to more advanced stages. Patients who know what to look for and regularly screen their skin for cancers, are much more likely to receive a diagnosis in early, more treatable stages. Keep reading to hear more from Dr. Walker about what scalp melanoma looks like and how to check for this condition and prevent serious health concerns.
What Does A Normal Vs An Abnormal Mole Look Like
Normal moles are usually round or oval and smaller than a pencil eraser. They are one consistent color , with a clear border. Most people have less than 50 moles. You can be born with moles, develop them with age or even have some disappear.
Cancerous, or malignant, moles may vary greatly in appearance. To help identify moles that might indicate melanoma, think of the letters A-B-C-D-E:
- A | Asymmetry: Mole is an irregular shape, such as if one side looks different than the other
- B | Border: Mole has irregular, ragged, notched or scalloped borders
- C | Color: Mole has more than one color or uneven shading
- D | Diameter: Mole is bigger than a pencil eraser
- E | Evolution: Mole changes in some way
Talk to your doctor, if you notice any skin changes that seem unusual.
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How Is Melanoma Treated
Your melanoma treatment will depend on the stage of the melanoma and your general health.
Surgery is usually the main treatment for melanoma. The procedure involves cutting out the cancer and some of the normal skin surrounding it. The amount of healthy skin removed will depend on the size and location of the skin cancer. Typically, surgical excision of melanoma can be performed under local anesthesia in the dermatologist’s office. More advanced cases may require other types of treatment in addition to or instead of surgery.
Treatments for melanoma:
- Melanoma Surgery: In the early stages, surgery has a high probability of being able to cure your melanoma. Usually performed in an office, a dermatologist numbs the skin with a local anesthetic and removes the melanoma and margins .
- Lymphadenectomy: In cases where melanoma has spread, removal of the lymph nodes near the primary diagnosis site may be required. This can prevent the spread to other areas of your body.
- Metastasectomy: Metastasectomy is used to remove small melanoma bits from organs.
- Targeted cancer therapy: In this treatment option, drugs are used to attack specific cancer cells. This targeted approach goes after cancer cells, leaving healthy cells untouched.
- Radiation Therapy: Radiation therapy includes treatments with high-energy rays to attack cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Immunotherapy: immunotherapy stimulates your own immune system to help fight the cancer.
What You Need To Know About Early Detection
Finding melanoma at an early stage is crucial early detection can vastly increase your chances for cure.
Look for anything new,changing or unusual on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body. Melanomas commonly appear on the legs of women, and the number one place they develop on men is the trunk. Keep in mind, though, that melanomas can arise anywhere on the skin, even in areas where the sun doesnt shine.
Early detection makes a difference
99%5-year survival rate for patients in the U.S. whose melanoma is detected early. The survival rate drops to 66% if the disease reaches the lymph nodes and27% if it spreads to distant organs.
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Prevention And Early Detection
The exact cause of subungual melanoma is unknown, meaning that patients cannot take specific steps to prevent this condition. However, because it may be associated with trauma to the hands and feet, you may want to keep yours hands and feet protected.2 For example, you can protect your hands and feet by wearing gloves during heavy labor, or wearing protective gear and sturdy shoes during sports.
Early detection is crucial to the treatment of subungual melanoma, so be sure to tell your doctor about any changes to your nails.1 You can regularly check your nails, fingers, and toes for any bruising, streaking, or changes.3
What Are The Danger Signs Of Pigmented Lesions
What are the danger signs of pigmented lesions? Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
What are danger signs of skin lesions? Take action: Contact your doctor if a lesion: changes colour from light to dark or white to pale pink changes shape and size develops irregular, swollen ridges peels, heals and peels again forms an ulcer in the centre and doesnt heal or suddenly reappears.
How do you know if a lesion is cancerous? Color that spreads from the border of a spot into surrounding skin. Itching, pain, or tenderness in an area that doesnt go away or goes away then comes back. Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaliness, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump.
Can pigmentation turn cancerous? Is hyperpigmentation harmful? Unevenly pigmented skin is not necessarily harmful, but people with sun damaged skin do carry a higher risk of developing skin cancer due to excessive UV radiation exposure.
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When Should I Call My Doctor
You should have a skin examination by a doctor if you have any of the following:
- A personal history of skin cancer or atypical moles .
- A family history of skin cancer.
- A history of intense sun exposure as a young person and painful or blistering sunburns.
- New or numerous large moles.
- A mole that changes in size, color or shape.
- Any mole that itches, bleeds or is tender.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Receiving a diagnosis of melanoma can be scary. Watch your skin and moles for any changes and seeing your doctor regularly for skin examinations, especially if youre fair-skinned, will give you the best chances for catching melanoma early when its most treatable.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/21/2021.
Can You Have Melanoma For Years And Not Know
How long can you have melanoma and not know it? It depends on the type of melanoma. For example, nodular melanoma grows rapidly over a matter of weeks, while a radial melanoma can slowly spread over the span of a decade. Like a cavity, a melanoma may grow for years before producing any significant symptoms.
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What Does Initial Melanoma Look Like
Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen. Diameter: There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas can be tiny, but most are larger than the size of a pea .Read more
Early Detection of Melanoma
How To Perform A Self
1. Examine your face
Especially your nose, lips, mouth and ears front and back. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view.
2. Inspect your scalp
Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you can.
3. Check your hands
Palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms.
4. Scan your arms
Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms. Dont forget the underarms.
5. Inspect your torso
How Can You Make A Difference In The Fight Against Melanoma
Jackie was diagnosed with melanoma at the age of 22.
How To Prevent Melanoma
Most skin cancers, including melanoma are preventable. The following protective measures can help prevent skin cancer:
- Avoiding the sun during the hottest part of the day, which is typically 11 AM to 4 PM.
- Applying sunscreen throughout the year. Sunscreens don’t usually filter out all harmful UV radiation, especially radiation that can lead to melanoma but they are essential in providing overall protection from the sun. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 should be used all year around and reapplied as required. Sunscreen is to be applied on all days including winter and cloudy days. It is advised to apply sunscreen over all exposed skin of the body and face, including the lips and ears. Special sunscreen is needed while swimming in the pools and beaches.
- Wearing protective clothing can provide protection against the sun and harmful UV radiation. Sunglasses are essential to protect the eyes and skin around the eyes, such as the eyelids, against UVB radiation.
- Avoid tanning beds because they emit UV rays that cause skin cancer.
- Consuming sun-sensitizing medications such as certain antibiotics or isotretinoin for acne can increase skin sensitivity to sun.
- Self examination of the skin regularly is important for diagnosis and treatment. Any new skin changes or changes in existing skin growths, patches or moles should be reported to a physician as soon as possible
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What Does Melanoma Look Like On The Skin Topic Guide
- Pyogenic granulomas are common, benign, rapidly-growing, brittle vascular lesions of the skin and mucosa. They frequently occur in children and young adults, and grow rapidly over a few weeks, often on the head, neck, upper trunk, and extremities. Pyogenic granuloma is common as well in pregnancy and sometimes are called “pregnancy tumors.”
Less Common Skin Cancers
Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposi’s sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.
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How To Check Yourself
By checking your skin regularly, you will learn to recognize what spots, moles, and marks are already present and how they typically appear. The more you get to know your skin, the easier it will be for you to detect changes, such as new lesions or spots and moles that have changed in shape, size, or color, or have begun bleeding.
It is best to use a full-length mirror when checking your skin for changes or early signs of skin cancer. Observe your body in the mirror from all anglesfront, back, and on each side.
Taking each part of the body in turn, start with your hands and arms, carefully examining both sides of the hands and the difficult to see places like the underarms. Move on to your legs and feet, making sure to check the backs of your legs, soles of your feet, and between your toes.
Use a small mirror to get a closer look at your buttocks and your back. You can also use a small mirror to examine your face, neck, head, and scalp. Dont forget to part your hair and feel around your scalp.
Can Changing My Diet Help Prevent Melanoma
The American Cancer Society advocates eating a plant-based diet over an animal-based diet as part of a healthy plan to avoid all cancers. Growing evidence suggests that plants pack a powerful punch in any fight against cancer because they’re nutritious, cholesterol-free and fiber-rich.
Theres no doubt that a healthy diet can protect your immune system. Having a strong immune system is important to help your body fight disease. Some research has shown that a Mediterranean diet is a healthy choice that may help prevent the development of cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about the role food plays in lowering your cancer risks.
Some skin and immune-system healthy foods to consider include:
- Daily tea drinking: The polyphenols in tea help strengthen your immune system. Green tea contains more polyphenols than black tea.
- High vegetable consumption: Eating carrots, cruciferous and leafy vegetables is linked to the prevention of cutaneous melanoma.
- Weekly fish intake: Study participants who ate fish weekly seemed to avoid developing the disease when compared to those who did not eat fish weekly.
The 5 Stages Of Nail Melanoma
Nail melanoma is a life-threatening skin cancer that grows to affect the nails, usually the big toe and thumb. This disease can prove to be very deadly, however treatments are readily available if diagnosed early.
This disease is often referred to as, Malignant Melanoma of Nail Unit or Nail Unit Melanoma.
- The pigment producing cells of the body, called Melanocytes, is where the Melanoma cancer develops. The Melanocytes are responsible for giving our skin its color.
- The development of Melanoma cancer, usually begins from a finger or toenail, however thats not always the case.
- It has the tendency to affect the areas around such as the sides of nail or the nail bed. In fact, it may also spread to other parts of the body, if not treated on time.
- The big toe or thumb is usually the first to get affected, however it may vary according to each case.
- The Nail Unit Melanoma is divided into 3 main types:
- Nail Melanoma is most common in light/fair skinned people as opposed to dark skinned people.
There are 5 stages of Nail Melanoma, stated as follows
Stage 1: aka Stage O Melanoma
This stage is also referred to as Melanoma in situ, meaning site of origination of Melanoma. At this point, a tumor has formed on the outermost layer of the skin, epidermis.
Stage 2: aka Stage I Melanoma
This stage is further categorized into two:
Stage IA: At this stage, the tumor is less than a mm deep and has no signs of an ulcer.
Stage 3: aka Stage II Melanoma
Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer
Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.
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Melanoma Does Not Discriminate
Although melanoma is relatively uncommon in people of color, when it is diagnosed, it is often diagnosed in later stages, making treatment more difficult. The most common locations for melanoma on people of color are areas that have little exposure to the sun the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, on fingernails and toenails and inside the mouth.1
In Caucasians, more than 90% of cutaneous melanomas are thought to be linked to UV exposure.2 This includes UV rays that come from either natural sunlight or from tanning beds. However, in people of color, nearly 75% of melanomas occur on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails and in mucous sites like the mouth, nasal passages or genitals. These types of melanomas may be classified as acral lentiginous melanomas or mucosal melanomas. Melanoma can also occur in the eye. This is called ocular melanoma.
While UV exposure plays less of a role in the development of melanoma in people of color, other risk factors include a depressed immune system, radiation therapy, preexisting pigmented lesions, albinism and burn scars.1
Melanomas That Could Be Mistaken For A Common Skin Problem
Melanoma that looks like a bruise
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, including the bottom of the foot, where it can look like a bruise as shown here.
Melanoma that looks like a cyst
This reddish nodule looks a lot like a cyst, but testing proved that it was a melanoma.
In people of African descent, melanoma tends to develop on the palm, bottom of the foot, or under or around a nail.
Did you spot the asymmetry, uneven border, varied color, and diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser?
Dark line beneath a nail
Melanoma can develop under a fingernail or toenail, looking like a brown line as shown here.
While this line is thin, some are much thicker. The lines can also be much darker.
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