Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer accounting for two-thirds of all deaths attributed to skin cancers. This increased risk of death is because melanoma can spread to other body parts.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, 1 in 75 Americans will develop melanoma in their lifetime. Risk of melanoma increases in people with fair skin/eye color, in people with a high number of abnormal moles, and in people with a history of blistering sunburns (particularly if the sunburn occurs prior to age 20). Melanoma commonly occurs on the back of men and legs of women, and in darker skinned people, under nails or on palms and soles.
The importance of recognizing melanoma in the early stages cannot be emphasized enough. A useful, at-home tool in the assessment of possible melanoma is the ABCDE rule. If any of the following is detected or indicated, we recommend you make an appointment:
A is for ASYMMETRY: One-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for BORDER IRREGULARITY: The edges are jagged, scalloped (like the petals of a flower), or blurred.
C is for COLOR VARIATION: The mole has differing shades of brown, black, or other colors (blue, red or white) within it.
D is for DIAMETER: The mole is more than 6 millimeters across (i.e. wider than a pencil eraser) or is growing in size.
E is for EVOLVING: A mole that is changing in size, shape, or color.
The standard treatment for melanoma is surgical removal of the melanoma and a wide area of skin surrounding the melanoma. There are, however, special cases, especially on the head and neck region, where Mohs Micrographic Surgery is beneficial in the treatment of melanoma. Many of the melanomas in this area of the body have poorly defined borders making standard excision difficult.
To learn more about how dermatologists diagnose and treat melanoma, please visit http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/melanoma/diagnosis-treatment.