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What is Melanoma?  

The least common but most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. This disease develops in the melanocytes, which are the primary cells found in the bottom layer of the epidermis and is responsible for producing melanin for skin pigmentation. 

The signs of melanoma can appear anywhere on the body but they are common in areas that have been exposed to the sun. Some of the usual affected areas are the face, neck, legs, trunk, and arms. 

In more advanced cases, melanoma can also be found in your internal organs and lymph system and cause metastatic liver cancer or pancreatic cancer. 

Melanomas can be confused with a normal mole as they often present as dark brown or black spots on the skin. However, you should immediately consult with a dermatologist if you notice any irregularities in the skin, because melanomas can often change size and shape. Early detection of skin cancer is critical to prevent serious symptoms. (See Skin Check)  

What Causes Melanoma? 

When the skin cells produce too many melanocytes, they can develop into malignant cancer cells and migrate to other parts and even internal organs in the body. Healthy skin cells grow and divide in a controlled way, but UV rays from the sunlight can alter the DNA in the melanocytes. This can cause the normal melanocytes to change and begin reproducing cancerous cells in the body. Some of the common causes of melanoma are: 

  • Frequent use of tanning beds and lamps 
  • Frequent sunlight exposure 
  • Getting a sunburn

If you have melanoma spots in other body areas that aren’t constantly exposed to the sun, this can mean that there are other factors behind having them. This can include: 

  • Having a weak immune system 
  • Having a family history of melanoma  
  • Previous diagnosis of another type of skin cancer like basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma 
  • Existing or inherited medical conditions like breast cancer  
  • Having a disease that impairs the skin’s ability to repair UV damage
Schedule Your Consultation Now at Dermatology & Skin Health

At Dermatology & Skin Health, we offer world-class services done by award-winning doctors who have proven their knowledge and skills in this field. Start your journey towards achieving your best skin by contacting us today.

Who’s at Most Risk for Getting Melanoma? 

Just like any cancer type, the risk for melanoma increases with age. It’s been commonly diagnosed in older patients aged 55 to 74 but it can also affect younger adults who are 25 to 29 years old. Other factors that can contribute to your risk of being a melanoma patient are: 

  • Having a fair skin tone
  • Having freckles, light-colored hair, or red hair
  • Having many large moles 
  • Having unusual birthmarks 
  • Living in tropical areas or close to the equator where there is a high chance of UV exposure 

How to Know Whether the Unusual Spot on Your Skin is Melanoma  

If you detect an unusual mole on your body, it’s important to monitor it for any changes in its size, shape, and color. You can visit our dermatologist for a skin cancer screening or you can follow the ABCDE checklist to inspect your existing mole: 

  • Asymmetry - Melanomas have an uneven or irregular shape, while normal moles usually appear symmetrical. 
  • Borders - Look at the sides and edges of the dark spots on your skin. If there are blurred and uneven borders, it may be a melanoma spot.  
  • Color - Benign moles are usually even colored, while melanomas may have more than one shade. You may notice some brown, tan, or black spots with shades of pink, gray, red, and white on the skin. 
  • Diameter - Melanomas are typically round-shaped and can appear larger than 1/4 inch or 6mm in diameter. Make sure to check for any abnormal growth that looks larger than the average mole. 
  • Evolving - Unlike moles, melanomas can change over time and you may notice other symptoms such as itching, bleeding, or crusting on the skin lesion. 

Different  Stages of Melanoma 

A melanoma doctor can diagnose and categorize your melanoma in different stages: 

Stage 0In this stage, the cancer cells are located only in the top layer of the skin.  
Stage 1 Melanomas in this stage are still low risk and they have not yet spread to other parts of the body. 
Stage 2 There are still no signs of cancer cells spreading to other areas, but this can already mean a high risk of recurrence. 
Stage 3Melanomas have already moved to the surrounding skin and nearby lymph nodes. 
Stage 4 This stage is called metastatic melanoma where the cells have migrated to distant sites and internal organs. 

Melanoma vs. Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer  

Not all the spots on the skin are malignant melanomas. In some cases, you may have a less aggressive form of skin cancer which is known as non-melanoma. Here’s the difference between the 2 skin conditions: 

Melanoma Non Melanoma Skin Cancer 
Begins in the skin’s melanocytes (also known as cutaneous oncology) A type of skin cancer that starts in the basal cell, squamous cell, or Merkel cell
Can develop into advanced stages and migrate to other areas of the body Has a low incidence that it will spread to other areas of the body
The spots appear black or dark brown on the skin Usually looks small with a pinkish or white lump 

What Tests are Done to Diagnose Melanoma? 

A simple skin biopsy is usually done to get an accurate diagnosis of the existing melanoma. Other medical tests such as a CT scan, MRI exam, and PET scan may be ordered to check if the cancer cells have reached other organs inside the body. 

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Dermatology & Skin Health

At Dermatology & Skin Health, our excellent dermatology services are guaranteed to be safe and effective, performed by the top doctors in their respective fields. Treat your skin problems by contacting us today.


Treatment Options for Melanoma 

Normally, cancer care requires working with a team of healthcare professionals who can help diagnose and recommend the best treatment plan for your melanoma. You may be required to see a dermatologist, surgical oncologist, medical oncologist, and radiation oncologist throughout the course of your treatment. 

Early-stage melanomas will require general surgery to remove the cancerous tumors and the surrounding tissue to ensure that no cancer cells will be left behind. For advanced melanoma, the following skin cancer treatment options can be suggested: 

  • Radiation therapy - to help kill the cancer cells in the skin and lymph nodes 
  • Chemotherapy - a drug treatment that is given intravenously to remove the cancer cells 
  • Immunotherapy - a treatment that helps strengthen your immune system to attack the cancer cells
  • Metastasectomy - a surgical procedure to remove the metastatic melanoma that have migrated to other parts of the body 
  • Targeted therapy - this treatment uses drugs and other medications to fight the specific cancer cells and control how they grow and divide 

Reminders to Take Care of Your Skin and Prevent Melanoma

You can keep your skin healthy and protect yourself against having melanoma by doing the following: 

  • Stay out of the sun and remain indoors during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
  • Cover up the exposed areas of the body such as the arms and legs with protective clothing especially when going out.  
  • Protect your face by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater to help protect against UVA and UVB rays. 
  • Check your skin monthly and consult with a healthcare professional immediately if you see any unusual changes. 
  • Get annual skin examinations with a dermatologist especially if you’re over 40 years old. Our team at Dermatology and Skin Health is always ready to take your call. 

See Our Melanoma Specialist at Dermatology and Skin Healthy Today 

If you’re worried about the abnormal black spots on your skin, talk with our melanoma specialist at Dermatology and Skin Health today. Our team of dermatologists can help provide accurate diagnosis and recommend the best treatment to remove your melanoma. Contact us now and schedule a skin check with any of our professional doctors.