Melanoma is the most serious
form of skin cancer. Even so, if diagnosed and removed while it is still thin
and limited to the outermost skin layer, it is almost 100% curable. Once the
cancer advances and metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body, it
is hard to treat and can be deadly. During the past 10 years the number of
cases of melanoma has increased more rapidly than that of any other cancer.
Over 51,000 new cases are reported to the American Cancer Society each year,
and it is probable that a great many more occur and are not reported.
|Who Gets It|
Origin of Melanoma
Melanoma is a malignant
tumor that originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment
melanin that colors our skin, hair, and eyes and is heavily concentrated in
most moles. The majority of melanomas, therefore, are black or brown. However,
melanomas occasionally stop producing pigment. When that happens, the melanomas
may no longer be dark, but are skin-colored, pink, red, or purple.
Are More Dangerous
A physician will tell
you whether the melanoma is early or advanced by describing it as either in
situ or invasive. "In situ" is Latin and means "in one site"
or "localized." Melanomas in situ occupy only the uppermost part
of the epidermis, the top layers of the skin.
Invasive melanomas are
the more serious, as they have penetrated more deeply into the skin and may
have travelled from the original tumor through the body.
melanomas are usually small brown-black or larger multicolored patches, plaques
or nodules with irregular outline.
They may crust on the surface or bleed. Many of them may arise in pre-existing moles.
ABCD Rule for Early Detection of Melanoma
Almost everyone has moles.
The vast majority of moles are perfectly harmless. A change in a mole's appearance
is a sign that you should see your doctor. Here's the simple ABCD rule to
help you remember the important signs of melanoma and other skin cancers:
|Important Signs of Melanoma|
Other important signs
of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or the appearance
of a new spot. Some melanomas do not fit the ABCD rule described above, so
it is particularly important for you to be aware of changes in skin lesions
or a new skin lesion.