Be on the lookout for melanoma

Melanoma has a well-deserved reputation as the most serious form of skin cancer. It can be hard to treat and potentially lethal if it isn’t caught early.

If caught early, a simple surgical procedure may be all that is required to remove the melanoma.

Joehar Hamdan, DO
Joehar Hamdan, DO

“Having regular skin checks can boost the chance of catching skin cancer early, before it spreads to other parts of the body,” says Riverside Oncologist and Hematologist Joehar Hamdan, DO.

That’s why it’s a good idea to watch your skin regularly for potential signs of melanoma. By doing that, if you do get the disease, you stand a better chance of finding it as early as possible, which can boost your chances of a cure.

What to look for

Melanomas can appear anywhere on your skin. At first, some melanomas can look like moles—with some differences. Others may resemble new or changing growths or freckles or unusual age spots. Still other melanomas itch or bleed, like sores.

Melanomas can also appear in places you might not expect, like under your nails (beneath the nails, melanoma can look like a dark line). And they can develop on the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands—even though these places don’t get a lot of sunshine (a major cause of skin cancer). So be sure to check your entire body from time to time.

When evaluating any skin changes you happen to find, use the ABCDE rule:

Asymmetry. Unlike a regular, oval or round mole, one half of a melanoma lesion doesn’t look like the other half.

Borders. Most melanomas have jagged or other uneven borders.

Color. Melanomas may be more than one color, such as brown, tan, white, pink or red.

Diameter. Most melanomas are about the size of a pencil eraser, though they can be smaller.

Evolving. This is when a mole or spot changes in size, shape or color.

“If you notice any unusual changes in your skin, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible,” Dr. Hamdan says.

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Additional source: American Academy of Dermatology