Malignant Melanoma

Melanoma results from the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells, called melanocytes. Melanomas might appear on the skin suddenly without warning, but they also can develop within an existing mole.

Why is melanoma so important to diagnose? Melanoma is the least common, but most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Most commonly occurring in Caucasians and on the skin, it can affect people of color and in areas such as the eye and intestine.  Melanoma is responsible for 75% of deaths caused by skin cancer.  Awareness and early detection are of the utmost importance.

The “ABCDE” campaign has helped awareness of signs to look for.  Asymmetry or irregularity of the mole, Border irregularity, Color, Diameter of the mole, and Enlarging size.

How is melanoma diagnosed and treated?

Checking for changes in existing moles allow patients to screen themselves and bring a suspicious mole to the attention of their dermatologist.  If you have such a mole, your dermatologist will likely take a biopsy of the area and send it to a pathologist to look under the microscope. 

Depending on these results, a treatment plan will be organized.  If the margins of the biopsy show no extension of the melanoma, treatment is complete.  If there are signs of spread, a larger sample will be taken and may need to involve more extensive surgery and even biopsy of the lymph nodes. 

In some cases, chemotherapy and more surgery will be required.  Although melanoma can be serious and life threatening, your dermatologist is an expert in managing this condition and will help you through the entire process.