What is Melanoma and How to Detect It

What is Melanoma and How to Detect It
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With this article you will find out what melanoma is and how to detect it in time. Protect your skin from this type of cancer with these easy tips.

For World Melanoma Day on May 6th, we want to create awareness on the importance this skin condition, explain what it is and share the basic rules that allow for early detection. 

We spoke to Dr. Susana Puig, a world-renowned dermatologist in the field of diagnosis and treatment of melanoma and skin cancer, who told us the basics of a self skin examination, when to go to a dermatologist for a check-up and how to reduce the risk of melanoma.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most aggressive kind of skin cancer. The first sign of melanoma is often a change in size, shape, colour or texture of a mole. Most of them have a bluish or black area. Melanoma can also present itself as a new mole. It can be black, abnormal or “ugly looking”.

What is Melanoma?

Things You Can Look for With Melanoma.

The key sign to detect melanoma is a new mole on the skin or a change in size, shape or color of an old mole. Another sign is if a mole on your body looks different to others on your skin.

It is very important to examine all skin on your body regularly; this can help you identify any abnormal moles or marks.

A useful technique to detect them is the “ABCDE” technique:

  • Asymmetrical shape: the outline of one half of the mole is different to the other.
  • Borders: the edges are uneven, ill-defined or irregular.
  • Color: the color is uneven and can include black, brown and cinnamon-colored shades.
  • Diameter: its size changes, usually increasing.
  • Progression: any changes in the mole in the last few weeks or months.

Other warning signs could be:

  •  A wound that does not heal.
  •  Spreading of the color of the edge of a mark to the surrounding skin.
  • Reddening or new inflammation beyond the border.
  • Change in feeling (itching, tenderness or pain).
  • Change in the surface of a mole (peeling, exudation, bleeding or an apparent protuberance or nodule).

If you detect any moles or marks on your skin with the aforementioned characteristics, go to your dermatologist for a skin examination and diagnosis.

How is a Skin Examination Conducted at the Dermatologist Office?

Dermatologists can combine several techniques for a skin examination including digital dermoscopy and a hand dermatoscope.

How is a Skin Examination Conducted at the Dermatologist Office?

Healthcare professionals analyze all moles on the body, face and neck and interpret them with these diagnostic imaging techniques. It is important to examine the whole body, because sometimes melanoma can appear in places that are not easily visible. New computerized diagnostic systems can generate complete body maps as well as locate lesions and file the images to monitor the patient and detect minimal changes in their moles that may suggest that they are going malignant.

Although this may seem a very slow process, Dr. Susana Puig, with over 25 years’ experience in dermatology, told us that analyzing around 100 moles can take just one-and-a-half minutes.

Dermoscopy is an imaging technique to see structures that are not visible to the naked eye

“Dermoscopy is an imaging technique to see structures that are not visible to the naked eye. It has 10× to 30× magnification and prevents the stratum corneum from reflecting light so we can see deep into the skin. This improves diagnostic accuracy by 25%”.


When Should you Undergo a Skin Examination?

If you suspect a skin abnormality, such as moles that have changed, off-pink flaky lesions that do not heal (particularly on the head and neck), etc., you should go to your dermatologist for a skin examination.

Moreover, people with risk factors should go for annual skin examinations with a dermatologist: 

“People with a lot of moles, or a personal or family history of melanoma or skin cancer, should have a full skin examination with dermoscopy every year”.

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