Melanoma is the most aggressive and serios form of skin cancer. It affects people of all ages, but the incidence increases with age. The survival rate depends on the stage at the moment of diagnosis. Melanoma in situ has excellent prognosis, whereas metastatic melanoma holds poor prognosis. Screening is essential for early diagnosis and you should be aware that performing self examination of your moles at regular intervals can reduce dramatically the risk of missing a melanoma. However, you should not fail to reach your dermatologist for an expert annual full body skin check.
Excessive sun exposure (especially in the first 20 years of life) and use of sunbeds play a major role in the appearance of melanoma. Melanoma is more frequent in white skinned people who live in countries with sunny climate or who regularly go on holiday in hot climates. Also, people with multiple atypical nevi have a higher predisposition to be diagnosed with a melanoma during their life. People with low immune system, taking immunosuppressive drugs or following an organ transplant are more likely to develop a melanoma.
Self-examination should follow the ABCDE rule which tell you what you should look for in a mole. A melanoma may show one or more of the following:
- Asymmetry (in pattern and colour)
- Border (irregular edges, fade off borders)
- Colour (different shades of brown, black, pink)
- Diameter (most melanomas are larger than 6 mm)
- Evolution (rapid change in a pre-existing mole)
If you are worried that one of your moles might be cancerous and you already applied the ABCDE rule and you noticed some of the changes listed, then you ought to see a Dermatologist. When a mole is suspicious, the doctor will advise in removing it under local anaesthetic (a day procedure) and send it to the lab for testing. Doctor will perform an elliptical cut around the mole and then place sutures in. It takes about 10 days for the result to come back.
The biopsy report contains some important parameters based on which the doctor can tell you the stage of the melanoma and what are the next steps in terms of investigations and treatment. If you are worried about any of your moles, don’t hesitate to book an online consultation and send some clear, focused images with the mole so the doctor can advise if you need further treatment or face to face assessment. Most of the times, if the photo is taken in bright light and focused, the doctor is able to advise straightforward if there is any reason to worry or not.