Melanoma develops in the skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives color to your skin. It is the most serious type of skin cancer. The cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage occurs to the skin cells that lead to rapid multiplication and the formation of malignant tumors. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 74,000 new cases of melanoma in the will be diagnosed in 2015 in the United States.
It is believed that exposure to ultraviolet light increases the risk of melanoma development. The International Agency for Research on Cancer finds that tanning beds are especially carcinogenic to human skin and people who started using tanning beds before the age of 30 are about 75 percent more likely to develop skin melanoma. This is especially true in women who are under the age of 40 who have been diagnosed with melanoma.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body but are most likely to be in areas that have been exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet light, such as the back, legs, arms, nose and face.
The first signs of melanoma are usually a change in an existing mole or development of a new pigmented or dark spot on your skin. In later stages, the mole or growth may itch, bleed or ulcerate. Visual inspection is the most common diagnostic test used to diagnose skin melanoma. A popular method used by doctors or patients for remembering the signs and symptoms of melanoma is the mnemonic “ABCDE”.
- A is for asymmetry or irregular shape of the lesion.
- B is for borders that are irregular, notched or scalloped.
- C is for changes in color. Melanoma lesions have different colors or shades of colors.
- D is for diameter. Moles or lesions measuring greater than 6 mm are more likely to be cancerous.
- E is for evolving. Is the lesion evolving or enlarging over time?
Once a physician or dermatologist suspects you may have melanoma, the only way to accurately diagnose the skin cancer is with a biopsy. All or part of the suspicious lesion will be removed and sent to a pathologist to analyze the specimen. If the skin cells are positive for cancer, the treatment of choice is surgical removal of the tumor.
If melanoma is diagnosed and treated early, it is almost always curable. However, if there is a delay in recognizing and removing the cancer and it spreads to other parts of the body, or metastasizes, it can be difficult to treat and can be fatal.
If you or someone close to you believes that a doctor was negligent or delayed diagnosing or treating melanoma skin cancer you may want to speak with an experienced missed cancer diagnosis lawyer for additional information or call 1-800-243-1100.