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Myths About Melanoma Could Lead to Delayed Diagnosis and Treatment

Melanoma the most serious form of skin cancer that accounts for more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths. Knowing the facts about its causes and characteristics could save your life . Dermatologists hope that dispelling some common myths about melanoma could help more people understand their risk factors and be more aware of melanomas that dont fit the typical diagnostic mold.

Despite our ongoing public education efforts on the causes and symptoms of melanoma, a number of misconceptions about this potentially deadly disease exist, said dermatologist Diane R. Baker, MD, FAAD, president of the American Academy of Dermatology (Academy). These myths could cause some people to think they are not at risk for melanoma because of their skin type or to dismiss warning signs because they are not typical symptoms of the disease.

Myth: All melanomas follow the ABCD rule. Fact: When the ABCD rule for early melanoma diagnosis was designed more than 20 years ago, it offered a tool for physicians to aid in distinguishing potentially cancerous lesions from benign pigmented moles. The ABCD acronym stands for Asymmetry (meaning one half of the mole is different from the other), Border Irregularity (the edges or borders of melanomas are usually ragged or notched), Color (melanoma often has a variety of hues and colors within the same lesion), and Diameter (most melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm in diameter when diagnosed, although they can be smaller).

However, like all rules, there are bound to be exceptions. Numerous studies show that not all melanomas follow the ABCD rule. One study published in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) examined a specific type of melanoma known as nodular melanoma (NM) that does not fit the ABCD criteria for melanoma diagnosis. NMs commonly occur as symmetric, elevated lesions that are uniform in color and non-pigmented.

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