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Does Melanoma Always Appear as an Atypical Mole?

While melanoma only accounts for about 1% of skin cancers, it causes more deaths than other forms by far. Knowing what signs to look for can help ensure early detection, which can make all the difference in your prognosis. In fact, melanoma that’s treated before it spreads has a survival rate of over 99% after five years. 

Atypical moles are often the first noticed melanoma sign, but they aren’t the only symptom. Given that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s an especially good time to sharpen your knowledge about those signs.

Dermatologic surgeon and skin cancer specialist, Ali Hendi, MD, serving the Washington, DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia areas, diagnoses and treats all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma. In this blog post, we explore different presentations of the disease.

Moles that point to melanoma

About 70-80% of melanomas look like moles and form on seemingly normal skin. The remaining 20-30% start as normal, harmless moles that change as cancerous cells grow. Regardless of the origin, most melanoma growths look somewhat (or very) different from benign moles.

Atypical moles that may indicate melanoma have a range of traits, such as:

Most melanoma moles appear on areas of your body that have been frequently exposed to the sun, such as your arms, back, face, or legs.

Less obvious signs of melanoma

In some cases, melanoma appears on parts of your body that haven’t been exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays. These growths, known as “hidden melanomas,” may appear between your toes, on your scalp, palms, genitals, or beneath your fingernails. Melanomas that form under your nail tend to be flat and very dark with jagged borders.

Melanomas can also form inside your body, such as in the tissues of your mouth, nose, throat, or urinary tract. Ocular melanoma develops under the white part of your eye and causes vision changes. 

Risk factors for atypical melanoma

While anyone can develop hidden melanoma signs, they’re more prevalent in people of color. A recent study also showed that Black men hold a heightened risk for deadly melanoma.

Other risk factors for all presentations of melanoma include:

If you’re particularly at risk for melanoma, you may benefit from skin cancer surveillance. These noninvasive exams inspect your skin, including areas you can’t see on your own, to detect cancer signs early. 

If you’re diagnosed with melanoma, Dr. Hendi may recommend Mohs surgery, a precise procedure with a remarkably high success rate.

To learn more about melanoma or to get the skin cancer care you need, call 301-812-4591 or book an appointment online with the practice of Ali Hendi, MD, in Chevy Chase, Maryland, today.

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