Among the several kinds of cancer that afflict human skin, the worst and the most hostile is skin melanoma. The progression can happen quickly, especially if the skin melanoma is left undetected early and thereby untreated. Almost a quarter of people who develop a malignant skin melanoma die each year, according to an American Cancer Society report. According to studies, any American has a 1% chance of developing this kind of cancer.
If detected in its early stages, skin melanoma can be treated so that its progression can be delayed. The trick is in your knowing whether your skin changes are cancer-related. Of particular significance are skin discolorations and growths, especially moles. Read the rest of this article for tips on how to identify skin melanoma.
- Assess your risk level. Certain types of people are more prone to developing skin melanoma than others. For example, people who have fair skin complexion and who are frequently exposed to the sun have greater risk than those with darker skin and lesser sun exposure. People who are prone to moles are also at a higher risk level.
- Inspect your body. A developing melanoma usually shows signs of its presence. Examine different body areas--your genitals, mouth, eyes, and skin (especially your back and legs)--even if they have not been under sun exposure. Look for skin growths or discolorations. Melanomas are usually dark brown or black, although they can also take on other colors such as your own skin color, white, or red. In many cases, it grows from an already existing mole. It can also suddenly appear on your skin from out of nowhere. Be alert to skin changes, especially moles that weren't on your skin before.
- When inspecting a mole or skin growth, apply the so-called ABCD of identifying a melanoma. The acronym stands for asymmetry, border, color, and diameter.
- Check the shape of the mole. Normal moles will be symmetrical; that is, if you cut a mole into two, each half will be similar in shape and characteristics. Melanoma, however, causes asymmetry in either color or shape, or in both.
- Check the border of the mole. A normal mole has distinct edges or borders that separate it from your normal skin. Its edges are well-defined and consistent. Melanomas, however, have irregular borders, making the mole's edges appear ragged, notched, or scalloped.
- Check the color of the mole. Normal moles may appear black or dark brown. Normal moles also have consistent color throughout the mole. When your mole's color is inconsistent, it's most likely an abnormality. Melanoma causes inconsistent colors in a mole. The melanoma lesion can appear in many shades of color: black, brown, blue, tan, red, and white. The difference between a normal mole and an abnormal one is in the color inconsistency.
- Check the diameter of the mole. Regularly monitor the diameter or size of your mole. Increase in mole diameter is usually a sign of growth and should not be ignored.
Detecting skin melanoma in its early stages is important so that you can get early treatment. Use these tips to assist you in detecting abnormal skin lesions, and if you suspect melanoma, immediately consult with your doctor.