Melanoma: 4 Types for Early Detection and Prevention

There are two different types of skin cancer – non-melanoma skin cancer and melanoma. Melanoma develops when melanocytes begin to grow out of control. While melanoma accounts for only 1% of all skin cancers diagnosed in the U.S., it is the deadliest. A major risk factor for the disease is overexposure to the sun. However, a weakened immune system, a family history, age, and UV radiation exposure also increase your risk. The good news is that melanoma is highly curable if caught early.

The 4 Types of Melanomas

Melanoma can be categorized by type:

  1. Superficial spreading melanoma – is the most common type of melanoma that often appears on the limbs or trunk. It is characterized by a slow-growing or evolving flat patch of discolored skin.
  2. Nodular melanoma – is the second most common form of melanoma, which often appears on the head or neck. It’s usually reddish or blackish in color and grows quickly compared to other types. 
  3. Lentigo maligna melanoma – is a less common melanoma that tends to develop in older adults. Lentigo maligna melanoma typically starts as a freckle in sun-exposed areas of the skin.
  4. Acral lentiginous melanoma – the rarest kind of melanoma, which often appears under the nails, soles of the feet, or palms of the hands.

 The ABCDE Rule

Around 30% of melanomas begin as existing moles. Think alphabetically to help you remember the common characteristics of melanoma. Examine existing moles for any of these traits or look for changes in normal skin.

A – Asymmetry: Melanoma is often asymmetrical, which means the moles shape is uncharacteristic. Normal moles are generally circular in shape. While moles that aren’t a perfect circle may be nothing to worry about, they should be checked. Melanomas generally look irregular, with one side being larger than the other.

B – Border: Melanomas are not only irregular in shape, but they often have borders that aren’t well-defined. The edge may be blurred, ragged, or uneven.

C – Color: Melanomas are often more than one color or shade. The colors range in shades like black and brown and may have areas of gray or white and even red or blue.

D – Diameter: Melanoma lesions grow larger than normal moles. The eraser of a standard pencil is often used as a size reference. Try placing the pencil eraser over the lesion to see if parts of the mole are still visible.

E – Evolution: If you have an existing mole or lesion, monitor it for changes over time. Changes in color, size or shape should be noted and brought to the attention of a medical professional.

The most common treatment for melanoma is to remove or excise the affected skin, mole or lesion surgically. Other treatment methods include immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Understanding the risk factors and warning signs can help you detect melanoma in its early stages.

Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology offers patients state-of-the-art skin cancer treatment options such as Leipzig and Valencia Applicators with High Dose (HDR) Radiation. This highly successful skin cancer treatment is the least invasive option available to our Tampa patients.

To learn more about skin cancer and melanoma, contact Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology. At Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology, more than a thousand men and women diagnosed with cancer each year turn to our trusted team of cancer specialists. We encourage you to call us, ask us a question, or consult with us to get a second opinion so you, too, can experience the difference.