Melanoma can arise within an existing mole or may present as a new spot on the skin. The acronym ABCDE helps describe features to look for which are suggestive of melanoma.

  • A – asymmetry. If the lesion is folded in half, the two sides don't match.
  • B – border. The border may be jagged, scalloped or uneven.
  • C – color variegation. Multiple colors within one skin lesion including various shades of brown, black, red, white and blue.
  • D – diameter greater than 6mm. Lesions larger than the size of pencil eraser.
  • E – evolution. Any lesion that is changing in size, color or shape or new symptoms such as bleeding or crusting.

Treatment of melanoma includes excision of the entire spot with a margin of normal surrounding skin. This margin is determined based on the depth of the melanoma. Other studies such as a sentinel lymph node biopsy, which helps determine involvement of the draining lymph nodes, may also be recommended. Early detection is very important and overall survival is decreased when lymph nodes or other internal organs are involved. For late stage melanoma, collaboration with an oncologist is necessary to determine the best treatment. Although effective treatment options are limited for late stage melanoma, exciting new research has lead to recent FDA approval of novel medications, such as ipilimumab (Yervoy®) and vemurafenib (Zelboraf®).