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Medical Dermatology

Malignant Melanoma

What is malignant melanoma?

Melanoma is an abnormal growth of cells originating in the melanocytes or cells that color the skin. It may appear suddenly in the skin, nails, mucous membranes, genitals or scalp and may arise near a mole. It can look like a freckle or mole and can be flat or raised. Individuals with increased risk for this condition include fair skinned individuals, those with history of significant sunburns, have a family history of melanoma, or a high number of atypical moles.

In the last twenty years, the incidence of melanoma has doubled and presently is the most common form of cancer in the 25-29 age group. Early detection is critical in the successful treatment of melanoma. Any suspicious growth should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist who has extensive training and is able to visually detect signs of melanoma in its early stages.

What are the early stages of malignant melanomas?

Survival in cases of melanoma is related to the thickness of the tumor. If detected early and treated, the survival rate is very high. As the disease advances there is a higher possibility that it will spread to other areas of the body and the survival rate decreases. The following factors, known as the A B C D's*, indicate early signs of this condition:

  • Asymmetry- One half does not mirror the other half
  • Borders- Notched, irregular
  • Color- Variegated, uneven in color, often brown, black or pink
  • Diameter- Greater than half an inch*
*California Dermatology Society

What is the treatment for malignant melanoma?

The treatment for malignant melanoma is surgical excision. A consistent follow up program for five years is developed, the frequency of visits being determined by the severity of the condition.

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