Malignant melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer which develops from cells called melanocytes found within the skin. Moles are groups of melanocytes that lie adjacent to one another. Malignant melanoma therefore can arise within a pre-existing mole on the body although they can also occur where there was no obvious mole previously. Factors such as ultraviolet light exposure, prolonged sunlight exposure, use of sun beds and getting burnt as a child may all contribute to the development of melanoma. Very occasionally, melanoma can also run in families or arise in people who have a lot of abnormal moles, known as dysplastic naevus syndrome.
The majority of melanomas begin with a change in the appearance of your skin. This may be the development of a new mole or a change in a pre-existing mole. The ABCD checklist is useful in determining this :
Asymmetry : Melanomas are usually irregularly shaped whereas normal moles tend to be symmetrically shaped
Border : Melanomas have an irregularly shaped border whereas normal moles have a well defined border
Colour : Melanomas tend to have more than one colour with varying shades of brown, black or blue, whereas normal moles tend to be uniformly brown in colour
Diameter : Melanomas are usually 7mm or more in diameter
In addition, melanomas can also be crusty, itchy and occasionally bleed.
If you are concerned you may have melanoma, get in touch with your doctor immediately.
Some useful information and guidelines for the management of melanoma can be found here :