If you have noticed any changes to an existing mole along the ABCDE guidelines, have a new mole on your skin, or if any skin lesions are sore, tender, itching, or bleeding, it is advised that you make an appointment to see a dermatologist & make sure that everything is well with your skin. Melanoma skin cancer is aggressive & can be dangerous if left untreated, so please do not hesitate to get checked out.
Melanoma (malignant melanoma) is a type of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes, cells in the skin that contain pigment. It can spread to other organs. They can develop from an existing mole, or appear on their own, & usually affect the lower legs & back. They are caused by exposure to the UV rays in sunlight or tanning beds, particularly in those who have low levels of skin pigment.
Melanomas can take many forms, colours, & shapes (small or large, pink, red, brown or black, & round or irregularly shaped), & can be very visible & striking, or more subtle. The main sign of a melanoma is a new mole appearing on the body, or a change to an existing mole. Melanomas are less common in areas that have not had a lot of sun exposure.
It is important to be aware of changes to existing moles, & it can be helpful to use the ABCDE guidelines to remember what to look for:
- A for Asymmetry
- B for Border
- C for Colour
- D for Diameter
- E for Elevation
If any of these aspects of an existing mole change, it is important that you get it checked out by a dermatologist, as these changes can be an indicator that the mole has turned cancerous.
It is also important to get checked out if any of your new or existing moles are painful, sore, tender, are itchy, bleed or become crusty.
Nodular melanoma is the most dangerous type of melanoma, which is also characterised by the mole becoming firm to the touch. These can spread quickly, are black or red in colour, & may bleed or ooze.
Superficial spreading melanoma: more common in fair-skinned people with freckles, they are usually characterised by a mole that is growing & has irregular edges.
Lentigo maligna melanoma: more common amongst older people who have spent a lot of time in the sun; they begin flat & expand sideways; their colour is usually much darker than a normal freckle, & they can form lumps.
Acral lentiginous melanoma: occur on the soles of the feet & palms of the hands, & more common in people with darker skin.
Amelanotic melanoma: can be colourless, pink, or red, with light brown or grey edges.