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Does Melanoma Always Appear as an Atypical Mole?

Does Melanoma Always Appear as an Atypical Mole?

 Every year in the United States, millions of people are diagnosed with skin cancer, the most common type of cancer. The number of annual skin cancer diagnoses exceeds the diagnoses of all other types of cancers combined.  

Fortunately, most of those skin cancers are treatable forms of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. But roughly 106,000 of those diagnoses are for melanoma, the rarest but most deadly type of skin cancer.

Desert West Surgery is a leading provider of melanoma treatment, using advanced surgical techniques to remove cancerous tissue while sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. In honor of Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, our team is dedicating this post to helping their patients understand some of the lesser-known manifestations of melanoma so that they can seek treatment as soon as possible.

Atypical moles: A common manifestation

Most people think of melanoma as “odd-looking” or atypical moles that look different from “normal” moles. A simple memory device helps patients (and doctors, too) evaluate moles for melanoma by looking for their ABCDEs:

These five characteristics can differentiate an atypical mole from a regular mole, helping patients seek an evaluation early when melanoma treatment is less invasive and more successful — ideally before the cancer has spread.

While ABCDE plays an important role in melanoma identification, it can lead some people to think melanoma only shows up as an unusual mole, leaving them to ignore less common manifestations that are just as dangerous.

Other signs of melanoma

While it’s important to monitor your moles, you should also be aware of the other ways melanoma can occur.

New moles

In addition to changing existing moles, melanoma can appear as a new mole that may otherwise appear normal. If you notice any new moles, our team should check them.

Other skin growths

Melanoma can also appear as a completely different type of growth or lesion that doesn’t look like a mole. Dark areas or patches of skin, unusual lumps or nodules, cyst-like growths, flaky or scaly patches, and sores that won’t heal can all be telltale signs of melanoma.

Fingernail and toenail changes

Melanoma can form under your nails, too. If you notice discoloration under a nail, like a dark spot, patch, or dark line, schedule a visit to have it evaluated for melanoma.

Colorless lesions

The color of a mole is one of the key indicators of melanoma in atypical moles, but some melanomas don’t have any color at all. These growths are called amelanotic melanomas because they lack melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. Because they “match” your skin tone, these growths can be easily overlooked or ignored — another reason why regular skin exams are so important. 

Bruise-like discoloration

Some types of melanoma cause discoloration just below the skin surface. These lesions can be easily mistaken for bruising even though they’re not associated with injury or discomfort.

The importance of regular screening

It’s also important to note that melanoma can occur anywhere on your skin, not just in areas exposed to the sun or easily visible. Skin cancer screening evaluates all your skin using special techniques and the expertise of an experienced dermatologist skilled in identifying melanoma in all its forms.

If you have a lesion or other unusual change in your skin that needs to be evaluated, or if you’re overdue for a skin cancer screening, we can help. Contact Desert West Surgery today to schedule a visit at the Las Vegas location nearest you.

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