By far the most worrisome and serious form of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. Unfortunately, the incidence of this most aggressive form of skin cancer is on the rise. Why? This is likely due to increased sun exposure, a major risk factor for this disease. In Australia, the lifetime risk for developing malignant melanoma is around 1 in 30. It’s important to be aware of and understand malignant melanoma symptoms so you can catch this disease at an early stage when it can be treated successfully.
Do you have preexisting moles on your body? Most of us do have some moles on our body with the majority of them being completely benign. Some people have abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi that have a greater tendency to develop into a melanoma. These dysplastic nevi may run in families. If you have preexisting moles, it’s recommended that you see your doctor to determine whether your moles are the harmless variety of if they could be dysplastic nevi.
Often the first sign of a malignant melanoma is a change in a preexisting mole on your body. Changes that are most concerning include:
1. Itching or burning at the site of a mole.
2. Change in size of a preexisting mole.
3. Scaling or crusting of a preexisting mole.
4. Bleeding or discharge from a preexisting mole.
5. Elevation of a previously flat mole.
6. A previous regular mole becomes irregular along its borders.
7. A mole where one half looks different from the other half.
8. Change in color of a preexisting mole.
Malignant melanoma not only develops from a preexisting mole, but it can occur on previously clear, unmarked skin. The most difficult ones to detect are malignant melanomas involving body cavities such as the mouth, rectum, and vagina. It’s important that you see your doctor for a skin screening every year to make sure thee are no changes to your preexisting moles. The best way to cure this serious disease is to catch it early. By knowing the symptoms you can arrest this disease at an early stage when it can be cured. Even better is to prevent it in the first place by avoiding excessive sun exposure.
Now that you’re aware of melanoma symptoms, I hope you’ll take steps to evaluate and follow your own moles with the help of your doctor.