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Myths About Melanoma Could Lead to Delayed Diagnosis and Treatment

eople think of melanoma, they often associate a black- or brown-colored lesion or a mole that changes colors, said Dr. Baker. This study demonstrates that nodular melanomas lack a change in color, with 71 percent of the NM patients participating in the study reporting no noticeable change in color versus 57 percent of patients classified with the more traditional superficial spreading melanoma that noted a color change in their lesions. This is one example where NM patients relied more on the changing nature of their suspicious lesions primarily bleeding and catching on clothing than the ABCD characteristics.

Another study, published in the December 8, 2004, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, supports the argument that not all melanomas follow the ABCD rule noting data which demonstrated the smaller size (less than 6 mm) and the evolving nature of some melanomas, including changes in size, shape and symptoms (commonly involving itching, bleeding or tenderness).

Myth: Moles that have hairs are not cancerous. Fact: Although the vast majority of melanocytic (or pigmented) moles with hairs are benign, a new study published in the March 2007 issue of JAAD references three cases where the presence of one or more hairs in a pigmented lesion proved to be invasive melanoma. The authors of the study stress that a melanoma diagnosis should not be automatically ruled out in cases of pigmented lesions simply because they contain hair, and patients should closely monitor all moles for signs of skin cancer regardless of whether or not hair is present.

As the study investigators mention, one possible explanation as to why this myth originated is that when melanoma was commonly diagnosed in more advanced stages many years ago marked by larger and thicker lesions it would subsequently destroy the surrounding hair follicles, noted Dr. Baker. Today, dermatologists are diagnosing melanomas much earli
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