Melanoma

The most dangerous type of skin cancer.

INTRODUCTION

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer as it typically will spread to other areas of the body, including organs, if left untreated.

Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Basal Cell Carcinoma, are generally considered less dangerous as they are less likely to spread and can usually be treated with a simple surgery. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including areas not exposed to the sun, like inside the mouth or the palms of the hands. Men are more likely to get melanomas on their back while women are more likely to experience them on their legs.

Melanoma begins in melanocyte cells. It occurs when those cells behave abnormally, growing excessively and taking over surrounding tissues. Melanomas can develop from existing moles or skin growths, but, more commonly, they will start as a new growth.

For more on common forms of skin cancer, view our page on Skin Cancer.

“Most cases of melanoma are likely caused by radiation from sunlight; some studies even put incidences of skin cancer caused by sun exposure at around 95%.”

Vera Heydendael

In-house Dermatologist

Melanoma has been on the rise for years for different reasons. Increased tanning, low awareness and more sun exposure during holidays.

Early detection is the key to treating it. The earlier it is found, the more treatment options there are.

Make sure to self-check your whole body every 3 months if you have more than 50 moles. In other cases, do it at least twice per year.

MELANOMA DETECTION

Where melanoma
appears.

Moles
As a rule of thumb: those moles that stand out from the others need to be checked. They could be asymmetrical, have a border, show multiple colors, are bigger than others, or are changing over time. Melanoma skin cancer will grow from new moles, but also from moles are appear new on the skin.
Skin growths
‘Skin growths’ is a collective name for things that are not natural on the skin. Like lumps or patches. Melanoma can appear from these skin growths. If they have been there for a while – but also from brand new skin growths. If you see something ut of the ordinary, have it checked.

RISK SIGNS

How can you detect the
(early) symptoms of melanoma?

Changing
Change (or ‘evolution’ in the commonly used ABCDE-model) is an important sign of possible risk. When a mole or skin growth is changing, something could be going on. Make sure to self-check when you notice any change – and regularly take pictures of unnatural moles and spots to monitor possible changes.
Itching
Another common symptom of melanoma skin cancer is when a mole or skin growth itches. This could be something that is new, or the spot has been itching for a while now. Of course this could be totally harmless as well. But make sure to take a closer look when you have an itching mole.
Bleeding
Next to change and itching, bleeding is also something to notice as a possible sign of risk. When a mole or skin growth starts bleeding this could be a symptom or early warning sign. Take a photo of the spot to receive an instant risk assessment, and visit your doctor if you feel uncomfortable.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN

Where does melanoma
appear most often?

Melanoma Risk by Gender

Melanoma can appear anywhere on the skin, but as you can see in the illustration above there are a few places where melanoma is more commonly seen. This has to do with several factors, such as the amount of sun exposure on a certain area and genetics. As you can see, some of these places might be hard to check for yourself. You can use the help of a partner or friend if needed.

ESSENTIALS ON MELANOMA

Most asked questions
about melanoma.

Melanoma on the scalp

Scalp melanoma is one of these harder-to-detect forms of the cancer and it is one of the deadliest forms at that.

MoreSymptoms of melanoma on the scalp

Shape of a mole

If you have any moles that have a different appearance to the rest of the moles on your body, then you must keep an eye on them. These moles are called dysplastic moles and can evolve into melanomas. These moles tend to be larger than common moles, have irregular edges and are an uneven colour.

MoreMelanoma symptoms: the shape of a mole

Early melanoma pictures

These images give you an idea of the types of things you may look for in your own moles and represent moles that may not on first inspection appear harmful, but do require investigation. Mostly these moles have changed shape, size or colour and have therefore been noticed as unusual or suspect.

MoreEarly melanoma pictures

The physical symptoms

Knowing the symptoms of melanoma can be the key to catching it early and saving your life. Melanoma typically begins as a new mole or skin growth, so its symptoms are usually visible to the eye and physical in nature.

MorePhysical symptoms of melanoma.