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Malignant Melanoma

more about Malignant Melanoma



  • Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in the melanocytes, the skin cells containing pigment or color scattered throughout the body.  In the United States alone, 32,000 people are affected per year.
  • Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers, increasing at 4.3% per year.  One person dies from melanoma per hour.

  • Early stages:

- Abnormal moles can also appear on the soles of the feet or under the nails (see signs).

  • Late stages: 

  • When melanoma spreads to other parts of the body, various symptoms such as pain, bleeding, weight loss, and coughing up or vomiting blood may occur.  There are, however, signs that one should look for.  These are the danger signs seen in a mole, abbreviated as ABCDE:

      1. Asymmetry -- when one-half of a mole is different from the other
      2. Border -- describes a mole that has an irregular, notched, and indistinct border
      3. Color -- this refers to a change in the color or the shade of a mole (i.e., blue, white, brown, black, or a combination of these colors and shades)
      4. Diameter -- this refers to a change in the diameter, especially if it is greater than 0.6 centimeters (size of a pencil eraser)
      5. Elevation -- refers to a change in height

  • Excessive, repetitive, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection
  • Hereditary or genetic
  • Unknown causes and infections by viruses have been investigated, but without conclusive results.

  • A physical inspection of the mole by a physician.  The physician will ask about any changes (ABCDE) the patient may have noticed in the mole.
  • A picture of the mole is taken for future comparisons.
  • Routine blood work, X-Rays, and CAT scans may be ordered.
  • A needle biopsy (taking a small piece for analysis by a specialist).  This is necessary because the stage of growth of the melanoma is important in its treatment and prognosis.
  • The stages are as follows:
    1. Stage I: The melanoma has grown on only the top layer of skin.
    2. Stage II: The melanoma has grown deeper, but has not spread to other areas.
    3. Stage III: The melanoma has grown deeper, and has started to spread to the surrounding tissues.
    4. Stage IV: The melanoma has spread to distant parts of the body (i.e., liver, bone, lungs, etc.)

  • Although the best method is prevention, you can take preventative measures by limiting your exposure to sunlight, unless you are adequately protected with sunscreen, hats, and other types of protective clothing.
  • It is also important that you inspect your skin for any new moles or lesions.  You must also look for changes in existing moles, and report these changes to your physician.

more about Malignant Melanoma

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