About 200,000 Americans get melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer, each year. This cancer makes changes to your skin, like a new mole or freckle, objects of concern since it's difficult to know what’s normal and what might be a sign of skin cancer.
At Manhattan Dermatology, our team of dermatologists wants you to know that early detection can catch melanoma, making treatment easier and faster and preventing the cancer from spreading or metastasizing.
In fact, understanding the signs of melanoma and the changes it makes to your skin could mean the difference between a quick in-office treatment and months of battling cancer. Read on to learn how you can notice the signs of melanoma and what to do about them.
What are the signs of melanoma?
Melanoma is a skin cancer that develops when the cells that give your skin its darker coloring, called melanocytes, grow abnormally. Cancer develops because of this abnormal growth, and over time, these cells spread to other areas of the body.
The first signs of melanoma usually relate to the development of new, oddly pigmented moles or changes to existing moles. Look for the following signs:
- A large, brownish spot with darker flecks
- A bleeding mole or one that changes in color, size, or texture
- Dark, painful lesions
- A flat, scaly lesion
- A hard, red bump
- A flat, brown or tan lesion that looks like a scar
- A waxy or pearly bump
Even with the above checklist, it's difficult to spot problems since moles come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. To help you identify problem moles, use the letters ABCDE to help you tell the difference between normal and abnormal.
“A” for asymmetrical
Moles typically grow in a symmetrical shape. If one part of the mole grows differently or doesn’t match the shape of the rest of the mole, it could be a sign of melanoma.
“B” for border
Moles that aren’t cancerous normally have a defined border. Have a board-certified dermatologist evaluate any moles with borders that are irregular, notched, or blurred.
“C” for color
Moles come in a variety of colors, but the color of each mole should be consistent. If you see a mole with inconsistent coloring or with pink, red, white, or blue spots, it could indicate melanoma.
“D” for diameter
Be on the lookout for moles with large diameter (over one quarter-inch across). Smaller moles are more likely to be benign, although moles of any size can be cancerous. That’s why an annual skin check is vital for your health.
“E” for evolving
Moles are usually fairly stable. If you observe obvious changes in existing moles, such as a difference in their shape, size, texture, or color, schedule an evaluation.
If you believe a mole looks suspicious, schedule an appointment promptly. The earlier we look at your skin and any strange-looking moles, the better the odds for a successful treatment should it turn out to be cancerous.
Can a skin cancer screening help detect melanoma?
Yes! People of all skin colors and tones should have annual skin cancer screenings. If you wait to have an abnormal mole or spot checked, you may not receive a diagnosis until the later stages of skin cancer, making it more difficult to treat.
While everyone should get an annual screening, some people have a higher risk of getting melanoma. If you fall into any category below, our team at Manhattan Dermatology may recommend more frequent skin cancer screenings. Risk factors include having:
- Light hair and light eyes
- Many freckles
- Age spots
- Skin that freckles or burns easily
- A family history of melanoma
- A history of using tanning beds
- Numerous moles (over 50)
- Unusual or irregular moles
- A history of sunburns, especially if you blistered
You may also have an increased risk of melanoma if you work or engage in activities that give you more time in the sun than an average person, even if you don’t have any risk factors listed above.
What should I do if I have a sign of melanoma?
If you spot any of the signs of melanoma, don’t wait to contact us at Manhattan Dermatology and schedule an appointment with one of our dermatologists. We decide the best course of treatment based on your symptoms.
Most often, we’re able to surgically remove the melanoma. Sometimes, treating melanoma requires a skin graft or further treatment, like medication or chemotherapy. We advise you on the right course of action.
Learn more about noticing the signs of melanoma or schedule your skin cancer screening by calling or booking online with our experts in skin cancer at Manhattan Dermatology in New York City. Our offices are in the Murray Hill and Midtown East neighborhoods of Manhattan.