8 Symptoms of Melanoma

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Originating in the basal layer of the epidermis, melanoma forms from melanocytes, cells which produce the pigment melanin to protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Both tanning beds and natural sunlight contribute to the production of melanin, and too much exposure to either one puts you at risk of developing melanoma. As the cancer continues to develop, cells rise to the surface of the skin and the lesion becomes visible to the naked eye. Many people believe the development of a melanoma will be immediately apparent, but the signs and symptoms of this aggressive cancer are often less obvious than you’d think. Malignant spots may look like other harmless skin conditions, causing patients to delay seeing their doctor for far too long. Over 10,000 patients every year die from this disease, so early detection is essential to preventing a fatal outcome. The American Cancer Society states that a self-check for suspicious growths should be done at least once a month. By understanding the common signs and symptoms of melanoma, you can raise your chances of identifying an at-risk spot and be sure to schedule a timely, and possibly life-saving, visit to your dermatologist.

1. New Growths/Moles

While some melanomas develop from existing spots, the majority are new growths. A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology states that over 70 percent of melanomas are new spots, with less than 30 percent occurring as a malignant change from a previously existing mole. This information supports the current recommendation of frequent self-checks, but it’s also reason to expand your search for unusual marks on your body. Focusing solely on known moles can distract from a lesion that may be just starting to form. Considering a third of melanomas appear on the back, it’s a good idea to have your partner look at the areas you can’t see.

Some people have large amounts of moles and other spots. This makes keeping track of new growths quite the challenge. If you’re someone with tens or even hundreds of moles, using a body chart can be helpful. Simply draw a basic outline of a human body on a sheet of paper, then put a check mark where you currently have spots. Any time you notice a mark that could be new, refer to the body chart to see if it was already around. If you do notice any new growths/moles, the first thing to check for is asymmetry.