written by: BStone
• edited by: Emma Lloyd
• updated: 8/17/2010
Of the three major forms of skin cancer, malignant melanoma is the one to watch out for the most. Find out what early melanoma looks like so you can take care of this disease before it gets out of control.
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It is estimated that 54,000 new cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed each year. Unlike basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are highly curable, melanoma is a more dangerous form of skin cancer. If left unnoticed and untreated it can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymphatic vessels. As many as 7,800 deaths each year can be attributed to malignant melanoma.
While still in its early stage before the cancer has had the chance to spread, it can be treated. Wondering what does early melanoma look like? Find out what to look out for to make sure you don't have this form of skin cancer. If you might have it make sure to see your doctor right away.
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What happens with this form of skin cancer is a tumor begins to form in the deeper layers of the skin. It is the pigment-producing cells that become cancerous. While melanoma can start wherever the sun's rays touch the skin there are some trends to be aware of. For men, it often originates anywhere from the neck to the waist. For women, melanoma often appears on the arms and legs. Also, as many as half of all cases of this dangerous cancer start in moles. Always keep an eye on moles that you have, especially larger ones. Changes in shape and size can be a sign of early melanoma.
Other recognizable traits of this cancer include:
Asymmetrical skin growths, a mark that is dark on one side and light on the other for example
Reddish or dark brown marks with irregular borders
Marks on the skin that have more than one color, for example, that round black mole on your back that has now become brown, red, and black
Increase in size, if the diameter of a mark on your skin increases in size
General changes to a mole, any irregularity should be considered as a possible warning sign
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What to Do
If there is any possibility that you have melanoma, see a doctor. Having a medical professional look at the mark is the best way to rule out this dangerous cancer or take the first step towards treating it. Remember, as long as it is only early melanoma, the disease can be controlled and usually cured. If you do not know what early melanoma does look like and you miss the signs, you may be dealing with a more serious disease.
Malignant melanoma is rare in comparison to the more benign forms of skin cancer. It is also manageable as long as it is recognized. There is no reason to fear skin cancers. There is reason to responsibly be aware of potential sun damage, protect yourself when necessary, and routinely check your skin (especially moles) for changes and warning signs.
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Mayo Clinic <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/melanoma/DS00575>
Balch, Phyllis, CNC. "Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition." (The Penguin Group, 2006).
photo by: George Parrilla (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/georgeparrilla/3343054716/sizes/m/in/photostream/>