Skin Cancer / Melanoma
What It is

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that forms in the melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin which colors our skin, hair and eyes. Melanoma is less common than basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma. It predominantly appears on the skin, usually on the backs of men and the legs of women, but can also occur in places not directly exposed to the sun like the bowel, the eye or mucous membranes (e.g., mouth, genitals).

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop melanoma. Certain factors, however, may increase your risk of developing the disease.

  • SUN EXPOSURE. Exposure to both UVA and UVB rays from outdoor exposure or use of tanning beds. Blistering or peeling sunburns in early childhood, history of sunburns.
  • MOLES. 50 or more, or persons with multiple atypical or irregular-shaped moles
  • SKIN TYPE. Fair and red hair skin types who sunburn easily
  • FAMILY HISTORY. Family member, close relative with melanoma increases risk
  • WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEM. Compromised immune system due to other illness.
What to Look For

Following the “ABCDEs of Melanoma” is a popular and easy way to remember the signs and symptoms of melanoma when checking your skin.

Assymetry IllustrationAssymetry:

One half of the mole is not the same as the other. Draw an imaginary line either vertically or horizontally through the mole—do the two halves match?

Border IllustrationBorder:

The border, or edge, of a melanoma is usually uneven, notched, scalloped, blurred or ragged.

Color IllustrationColor:

Melanomas usually have shades of brown, tan, or black in one lesion. A benign mole can be any color, but a single mole is only one color with no variations.

Diameter IllustrationDiameter:

Lesions larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6 mm) should be checked by Dr. Gross. These lesions may be smaller when first detected but continue to grow—benign moles remain the same size.


The evolution, or change, of a mole or lesion—in size, shape, color, elevation, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting—may be a warning sign. In this case, you should have Dr. Gross check the lesion immediately.


We strongly recommend an annual total body skin exam by Dr. Ned Gross. The exam takes minutes to complete and is an essential step in early intervention against melanoma and other skin cancers.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, however, it can be highly treatable if detected and treated early. Melanoma usually begins on the surface of the skin. If given time to grow, though, it spreads down into the skin and ultimately reaches the blood and lymphatic system, spreading around the body. With early melanomas on the skin, treatment involves surgical removal of the lesion and surrounding tissue. If the melanoma has spread deeper, additional tests and therapies will be conducted. Dr. Gross will discuss the various treatment options with you depending on what best suits your health needs.

The contents of are for general educational and informational purposes only and not to be misconstrued as treatment advice or medical diagnosis. This information does not replace the advice of a physician, nor does it imply a physican – patient relationship between the reader, Dr. Gross and Piedmont Dermatology Center.

All of the above photos are displayed with the permission of the American Academy of Dermatology. All rights reserved.