Melanoma is a skin cancer which often looks like an irregularly shaped, multicolored, or inflamed mole.
Medical reports indicate that at least 20 million Caucasians in the U.S. have dysplastic nevus syndrome and half of their close relatives may also be affected.
Those who have dysplastic nevi and a family history (two or more close blood relatives) of such nevi and melanoma have more than a 50% risk of developing melanoma by the age of sixty. Others who have dysplastic nevi, but not such a strong family history of melanoma, are also at significantly greater risk of developing melanoma than the general population. This risk is 10%— certainly great enough to warrant self-examination, medical checkups, and sun protection.
If melanoma is dectected early, before it spreads, it is usually curable with simple surgical treatment. If neglected, it may be fatal.
If any of your moles have some of the following characteristics you should consult a dermatologist immediately:
- SHAPE: often asymmetrical; one half looks obviously unlike the other
- BORDER: irregular or hazy; the mole seems to gradually fade into the surrounding skin
- COLOR: variation and with tan, brown, dark brown, blue or black (sometimes with a pinkish hue)
- DIAMETER: larger than normal-1/4 inch to 1/3 inch or more
- LOCATION: most commonly on the back, chest, abdomen, and extremities; may also occur on normally unexposed areas (buttocks, groin, or female breasts as well as the soles of the feet and palms of the hands)
- GROWTH: enlargement in a previously stable mole or appearance of a new mole after age 25 should raise suspicion
- SURFACE: central portion may be flat or raised, sometimes with tiny, cobblestone elevations
- APPEARANCE: greatly varied; dysplastic nevi often look unusual and different from one another
- NUMBER: a few to over 100 dysplastic nevi may be present; numerous moles, regardless of color or type, are a risk factor for melanoma
If Moles Become Melanoma:
Melanoma is a cancer that arises from the pigment cells of the skin or from similar cells that make up moles.
After a period of time-from months to years- this type of cancer sends down 'roots' into deeper layers of the skin. Some of these microscopic extensions can spread new tumor growths (metastases) to vital organs of the body.
In people with dysplastic nevi and a family history of dysplastic nevi and melanoma, the cancer often develops by the decade of the thirties, and occasionally in teenagers. In people with dysplastic nevi, without a family history of dysplastic nevi and melanoma, the average age for melanoma development is in the mid-forties.
The incidence of melanoma is rising more rapidly than that of any other cancer in the U.S. In 1980, one person out of 250 had a risk of developing a melanoma in the course of a lifetime. Fortunately, melanoma is one of the easiest tumors to find and one of the easiest to cure IF IT IS FOUND AND REMOVED EARLY. If allowed to progress to the point of metastases, the prognosis (forecast) is very poor. At times it is difficult to distinguish between dysplastic nevi and early melanoma. To establish the difference, your doctor will remove the mole and have it examined in the laboratory.
Remember, the mole that undergoes a significant change in size,
shape or color should be suspected of being melanoma.