Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease. It involves cells called melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment calledmelanin. Melanin is responsible for skin and hair color. Melanoma can also involve the colored part of the eye. For information about that form of melanoma, see melanoma of the eye. See also: • Basal cell skin cancer • Skin cancer • Squamous cell skin cancer
The primary symptom of any skin cancer is usually a mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin. Any change in appearance of a pigmented skin sore over time is a warning sign. Also, watch for any bleeding from a skin growth. The ABCD system may help you remember features that might be symptoms of melanoma: • Asymmetry: One half of the abnormal area is different from the other half. • Borders: The lesion or growth has irregular edges. • Color: Color changes from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, or blue). A mixture of colors may appear within one sore. • Diameter: The trouble spot is usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in diameter -- about the size of a pencil eraser. The key to treating melanoma is recognizing symptoms early. You might not notice a small spot of concern if you don't look carefully, so perform thorough self-examinations monthly, and schedule a formal skin exam with a dermatologist yearly.