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 How to Recognize a MELANOMA*

RULE #1


LOTS OF SKIN LESIONS HAVE PIGMENT, BUT.....

Beware of Irregular Color and Contour!

Note the CONTOUR of this lesion is very IRREGULAR with some areas of notching.* Note also the COLOR of the lesion is very IRREGULAR with several shades of brown, black, and even areas of red and white.

*So what is a MELANOMA? Melanoma is a potentially deadly form of skin cancer that arises from the pigmented cells, or melanocytes of the skin. It seems to occur more often in people with many SUNBURNs. In the US, about 1 in every 100 people will develop melanoma!

RULE #2


LOTS OF PIGMENTED LESIONS GROW, BUT.....

Note the SURFACE of this lesion is very IRREGULAR with one side that is raised and the other side that is flat. There is LACK OF SYMMETRY. Note that if you follow the OUTLINE of this lesion that it is also IRREGULAR by virtue of the angle in the contour.

*So who gets MELANOMA besides people who have had sunburns? Those at higher risk have red or blond hair, fair skin, blue eyes, or a family history of melanoma.

RULE #3


JUST ABOUT EVERYONE GETS MOLES, BUT.....

Beware of Moles that Grow Late in Life!

This lesion was noted to appear when the patient was in his 50's. TOO LATE!! Normal moles develop in childhood and early adulthood. This lesion was a melanoma! And just in case you thought the presence of hair indicated that a lesion is benign, it doesn't!

*So pigmented lesions which come at the WRONG TIME or which have IRREGULAR PIGMENT or IRREGULAR CONTOUR may be melanoma.

RULE #4


THERE ARE LOTS OF MOLES, BUT.....
Beware of Moles that are Large!

Moles that are LARGER THAN ONE CENTIMETER are unusual. Look at the size of this one which is really a melanoma. And of course you also noticed the IRREGULARITY of CONTOUR and COLOR, and the LACK of SYMMETRY.

*Any pigmented lesion which is may be melanoma needs to be removed (excised) and examined with a microscope. This not only gives the diagnosis (benign vs. malignant) but also for melanoma, the thickness seems to serve as the best prediction of how the patient will do subsequently (and what else needs to be done).

How to Recognize a MELANOMA*

These are the major clues to the diagnosis of melanoma. Any "mole" that falls into the following category probably needs to be removed:

BEWARE OF THE MOLE WITH

  • IRREGULAR CONTOUR
  • IRREGULAR COLOR
  • LACK OF SYMMETRY
  • LARGER THAN 1 CENTIMETER
  • ONSET AT THE WRONG TIME