Melanoma skin cancers
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, colour or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal or "ugly looking." Thinking of "ABCD" can help you remember what to watch for:
- Asymmetry - the shape of one half does not match the other
- Border - the edges are ragged, blurred or irregular
- Colour - the colour in uneven and may include shades of black, brown and tan
- Diameter - there is a change in size, usually an increase
Melanoma can be cured if it is diagnosed and treated early. If melanoma is not removed in its early stages, cancer cells may grow downward from the skin surface and invade healthy tissue. If it spreads to other parts of the body it can be difficult to control.
If you have melanoma, you may see one or several of the following professionals who work together as a team:
- dermatologist (skin specialist)
- plastic surgeon (surgeon who specialises in skin problems)
- clinical oncologist (cancer doctor specialising in using radiotherapy)
- medical oncologist (cancer doctor specialising in using drug treatments)
- specialist nurse
Other skin cancers
Skin cancers that are not melanoma are sometimes grouped together as non-melanoma skin cancers because they develop from skin cells other than melanocytes. They tend to behave very differently from melanomas and are often treated in different ways.
Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell and squamous cell cancers (by far the most common skin cancers, and actually more common than any other form of cancer). Because they rarely spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are less worrisome and are treated differently from melanoma. Merkel cell carcinoma is an uncommon type of skin cancer that is sometimes harder to treat.