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Melanoma (MM)

Melanoma accounts for about 4% of skin cancers. In the U.S. the risk of developing melanoma is 1 in 57, 1 in 33 if Stage 0 (melanoma in situ) is included. Over the past 20 years the incidence of melanoma in fair skinned individuals has more than tripled. A disproportional increase of melanoma in young women has been seen and it has been proposed that this may in part be due to the increased use of tanning parlors.  In the U.S. over 6,700 deaths annually are caused by melanoma.

Melanoma most commonly appears as an atypical or changing mole, however, not uncommonly, a melanoma’s presentation can be more subtle.  Moles that are asymmetric, that have irregular borders, heterogeneous coloring, are 6mm or larger, or that are growing, changing in any way, itching or bleeding are suspicious for melanoma and should be expeditiously evaluated by a dermatologist.

That said, many moles with these atypical features are benign. Melanoma, less commonly, can present as a skin colored, pink or red papule or patch, as a scar, a warty growth, a pigmented line under a nail, and so on….

Treatment – Treatment of melanoma is in almost all cases surgical.

It cannot be emphasized enough that early detection of melanoma (as it is with all types of skin cancer) leads to the best outcome.  Regular skin examinations are highly recommended – the frequency of skin exams that is appropriate for any given patient is determined by one’s dermatologist and relates to the melanoma risk factors that an individual has.

There are many risk factors associated with melanoma including genetics, ultra-violet exposure, a personal and/or family history of melanoma, skin type, gender and age. That said, anyone of any age, skin type, gender, etc. can get melanoma.