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  • 10/2/2010

Melanoma (part 1)


Melanoma is a potentially dangerous type of skin cancer. It is diagnosed less frequently than other types of skin cancer (no melanoma skin cancer), but has the ability to spread very quickly. Melanoma most often begins on the skin but can develop on the other parts of the body, such as under fingernails, toenails and the eyeball.

Causes and Risk Factors of Melanoma

While we don’t know exactly what causes melanoma, we do know that there are risk factors that increase the likelihood that we may develop the disease. Risk factors for melanoma include:

• unprotected exposure to UV radiation from natural sunlight or artificial sources, such as tanning beds/lamps

• being white with fair skin and also having naturally red hair

• family or personal history of melanoma

• having many moles (more than 50)

• being older, although it can occur in young people also

• being male

• having many freckles

• a history of sunburns

• developing freckles easily

Keep in mind that people of all races and complexions can develop melanoma; it is not limited to fair-skinned whites.

Symptoms of Melanoma

Change in an existing mole is usually the first experienced symptom in people with melanoma. A new suspicious skin mole is also something that should raise red flags.

Learning the difference between a normal mole and an abnormal mole can help with self-skin exams at home. The ABCDs of melanoma can help you to discern between what is normal and what may need further evaluation by a dermatologist. The ABCDE rule guidelines instruct you to look for these characteristics in moles:

 Asymmetry: Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves. In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.

• Border: A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges.

• Color: A mole that is more than one hue, color or shade is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one color. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.

• Diameter: If the mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, and asymmetry).

Keep in mind that a mole does not have to meet the complete ABCD criteria to be evaluated by a dermatologist. Anything that meets at least one rule should be examined by a health care professional, preferably by a dermatologist.

• Evolution: Evolution refers to change, and in the case of melanoma, change to existing moles. Looking for changes in the size, symmetry, border, and color.

Source: cancer.about.com

Other links:

Definition of Cancer

Types of Cancer

Kidney cancer (renal cell)

Bladder Cancer

Breast Cancer

Colon Cancer

Lung Cancer


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