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Melanoma tips: what to look for

Melanoma (Superficial Spreading most common)

Color: Variable pigmentation. May have distinct areas of red, white or blue color, with small flecks of black speckles throughout. A variegated brown-blue-gray pattern may be seen.

Primary lesion: Flat-topped, irregularly elevated, pigmented papule or small plaque. May be nodular, bumpy or lobulated. Usually 7-12 mm or more in diameter. Early lesion can be as small as 5 mm and late lesion as large as 25 mm. May develop as a change in a preexisting mole, or as a new “mole.”

Pigment spread or “bleeding of pigment” into normal surrounding skin may be noted. Edges may have a scalloped or notched appearance.

Location: Anywhere, but the sun-exposed areas of the upper back, trunk, lower legs are most common. More common sites in women: arms and lower legs. More common sites in men: trunk.

Historical Findings: Evolves over a 1-5 year time period. The history commonly includes multiple blistering sunburns as a child, excessive sun exposure early in life, inability to tan, tendency to sunburn, and a family history of atypical nevi and/or melanoma.

There are new treatments for melanoma, but the best treatment is early detection, and the best prevention is avoiding sun and using sunscreen in light skinned individuals. Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in whites than in African Americans.

Cancer screening  tips from American Cancer Society.

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