Malignant melanoma is an uncommon but potentially serious form of skin cancer that is being diagnosed more frequently in the United States. If detected and treated early, chances for a long-term cure are good.
Detection by simple examination however, does not always find melanoma since it may resemble moles and other common skin features. MelaFind, a new FDA approved computer assisted technology may help detect melanomas more accurately.
MelaFind is a digital dermoscope, with special software for image processing which allows for differentiation between early melanoma and non-dangerous skin spots. A recent study showed that MelaFind had better melanoma detection compared to traditional methods. While it is not a substitute for a trained physician’s exam and it does not diagnoses melanoma (only a biopsy can do that), it may be useful in determining which skin changes should be further investigated.
When should you be concerned about a mole or other skin spot being a malignant melanoma? Look for the ABC’s (from the Melanoma Research Foundation):
|A – Asymmetrical Shape
Melanoma lesions are typically irregular, or not symmetrical, in shape. Benign moles are usually symmetrical.
|B – Border
Typically, non-cancerous moles have smooth, even borders. Melanoma lesions usually have iregular borders that are difficult to define.
|C – Color
The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, tan, etc.) or the uneven distribution of color can sometimes be a warning sign of melanoma. Benign moles are usually a single shade of brown or tan.
|D – Diameter
Melanoma lesions are often greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (approximately the size of a pencil eraser).
E – Evolution
The evolution of your moles(s) has become the most important factor to consider when it comes to melanoma. Knowing what is normal for YOU could save your life. If a mole has gone through recent changes in color and or size, get it checked out by a dermatologist immediately.
If you are concerned about a changing area on your skin, see your primary care doctor, dermatologist or plastic surgeon. If needed, a plastic surgeon can take a sample of the area (biopsy) to determine if there is skin cancer present. A plastic surgeon can also remove the lesion and provide the best reconstruction options.
- Sources: Melanoma Research Foundation and Medscape
- Image Sources: Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net (Unless otherwise noted, all images are models and not actual patients.) and Melanoma Research Foundation
- Copyright: Karol A. Gutowski, M.D., Chicago, IL, 2011