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Melanoma is cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers. The chance of developing it increases with age, but this disease affects people of all ages. It can occur on any skin surface. In men, melanoma is often found on the trunk (the area between the shoulders and the hips) or the head and neck. In women, it often develops on the lower legs. Melanoma is rare in black people and others with dark skin. When it does develop in dark-skinned people, it tends to occur under the fingernails or toenails, or on the palms or soles.
Source: National Cancer Institute, U.S. National Institutes of Health. www.cancer.gov
Sign of Melanoma - ABCD Features
Asymmetry—The shape of one half does not match the other.
Border—The edges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
Color—The color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.
Diameter—There is a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil (1/4 inch or 5 millimeters).
Melanomas in an early stage may be found when an existing mole changes slightly, for example, when a new black area forms. Newly formed fine scales and itching in a mole also are common symptoms of early melanoma. In more advanced melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. For example, it may become hard or lumpy. Melanomas may feel different from regular moles. More advanced tumors may itch, ooze, or bleed. But melanomas usually do not cause pain.
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