Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer and accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Any sign of melanoma must be examined immediately by a Board Certified Dermatologist. This is imperative, especially since people tend to underplay the threat of skin cancer and its potential seriousness, and may have an inclination to delay a skin cancer screening, or to fail to regularly examine their own skin for potential lesions at home. Statistics warn against underestimating the threats of skin cancer. In recent years, Skin Cancer has become the most prevalent form of all cancers in the USA. In 2006, approximately one million Americans were diagnosed with skin cancer, and about ten thousand cases were fatal.
Melanoma causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Left untreated too long, it can quickly spread to other organs and become extremely difficult to contain. Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells in the skin, known as melanocytes. Normal melanocytes reside in the outer layer of the skin and produce the brown pigment melanin, which is responsible for the color of our skin. With Melanoma, the melanocytes become cancerous, grow, and invade other tissues.
A melanoma may appear on the skin as a pigmented patch or bump. It might resemble a normal mole, but typically is more irregular in appearance. A change in the appearance of an existing lesion or mole must also be promptly reported to the doctor, as this very change constitutes a warning sign.
The American Academy of Dermatology has devised a rule of thumb for inspecting pigmented lesions on the skin and recognizing signs serious enough to refer to the dermatologist. When examining moles (all over the skin, including between the fingers and toes and on the back) look for:
A. Asymmetry—one half doesn’t match the other
B. Border—edges are ragged or blurred
C. Color—uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
D. Diameter—a change in size (usually greater than 6mm, about the size of a pencil’s eraser)
At NYDG, we add an E, for Elevation. If a lesion on your skin meets any of these criteria, it must be checked by a doctor, who will examine it and either assure you it is harmless, or biopsy it and send it to the lab.