Melanoma Update

Examining cells under a microscope is the gold standard for diagnosing the most deadly form of skin cancer. But a “good eye” remains key.

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News from CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians

Unlike other cancers, malignant melanoma develops on the body’s surface. And spotting its distinctive visual clues remains critical to saving lives, according to new research reported online on CA First Look from the New York University School of Medicine Melanoma Cooperative Group, which recommended in 1985 that attention to asymmetry (A), border irregularity (B), color variegation (C), and diameter more than 6 mm (D) of colored skin lesions could promote earlier recognition of the dangerous disease.

Approaches to detecting melanoma have evolved dramatically in the past 25 years. In the 1990s, dermoscopy revealed new subsurface features to help differentiate between melanoma and ordinary moles. Today, advanced computer-based technologies are helping doctors better identify the lesions that require further inspection.

Examining tumor cells under a microscope remains the gold standard for diagnosing melanoma. But a “good eye” remains key.

“From the development of the ABCDs through current attempts that use complex computer algorithms and genetic markers, a clinician’s ability to detect melanoma in its earliest form has been augmented,” write the authors. “However, a ‘good clinical eye’ is still fundamental to selecting the lesions for evaluation among the sea of those that are prevalent.”

Melanoma grows slowly and may occur anywhere on the skin. Regular and thorough skin checks can discover early signs of trouble. Always report suspicious signs to a dermatologist right away.

Click here for more on how to screen yourself (and your friends and family) for skin cancer and to download the Body Mole Map from the American Academy of Dermatology.


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