Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. At an advanced stage it can cause serious illness and even death. Fortunately, melanoma rarely strikes without warning.

There are almost always signs that danger lurks. When melanoma is diagnosed early, it is almost always curable.

Your skin, the largest organ of the body

Nevi (moles), brown spots and nodules on the skin are often innocent lesions – often, but not always.

Anyone with more than 100 nevi is at greater risk of developing melanoma.

The first signs may appear in one or more of these nevi.

That is why it is so important to know your skin very well.

Examine the skin of your entire body once a month and undergo a medical examination by a dermatologist once a year.

The Alphabet of Melanoma (ABCDE)

The first 5 letters of the alphabet are a guide to the early warning signs of melanoma.

A expresses the asymmetry (ASYMMETRY)

B expresses the border (BORDER)

C expresses the color (COLOR)

D expresses the diameter (DIAMETER)

E expresses evolution or change (EVOLVING)

Learn about these points and if you see any of them, schedule a visit to your doctor immediately.

But remember: These spots are not evidence of melanoma. They only mean that you should be on the lookout.

The photos on the opposite pages compare benign (innocent) and malignant nevi (early melanoma), according to the melanoma alphabet.

EVOLVING: Simple benign nevi remain unchanged over time. You should start to worry when a mole begins to evolve or change in any way.

BORDER: A benign nevus has smooth and even borders, unlike the one on the opposite page.

COLOR: Most benign nevi all have the same color, often a brownish tinge.

DIAMETER: Benign nevi are usually smaller in diameter than the malignant ones.

EVOLVING: Simple benign nevi remain unchanged over time. You should start to worry when a mole begins to evolve or change in any way.

ASYMMETRY: This benign nevus is not asymmetric. If you split the lesion, the two pieces will be the same, which means they are symmetrical.

Color variety is another warning sign. A number of different shades of brown, sun-tanned, or black can appear.

Melanoma can also become red, white, or blue.

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. If it spreads (metastasizes) to internal organs, it can be life threatening.

However at an early stage it is almost 100% curable.

Solar radiation is an activator

Melanoma can be triggered by intense, intermittent sun exposure - tanning causes this type of radiation.

Since this has always been the case, then, why has the number of melanoma cases more than tripled in the last 20 years?

People are now more involved in outdoor activities than in the past, and often wear less clothes.


Heredity plays such an important role in melanoma that the term "melanoma family" was coined.

The risk is maximal if a close relative (mother, father, siblings or children) has had melanoma.

Prevention, the best treatment

Half of all patients with melanoma have atypical nevi of unusual morphology (also called dysplastic nevi).

We take care not to miss the dermatological examination, if we belong to a family with cases of melanoma, if we have atypical nevi (moles) or if there is a history of melanoma.

Children in families with melanoma should be monitored by a doctor from the age of 10 and over.


Surgery is the main treatment for melanoma.

The doctor uses a scalpel and removes all the damage ensuring healthy borders of the surrounding skin.

The incision is closed, and the preparation is sent to the laboratory to certify that all cancer cells have been removed.

Sometimes cancer cells spread to the peripheral lymph nodes, which are glands that release the secretions of the immune system into the bloodstream.

These lymph nodes should be removed so that they do not send melanoma cells to other parts of the body.

In advanced cancers, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy (drugs that stimulate the immune system) are used.

These treatments can slow the progression of the disease, but advanced melanoma is difficult to stop.

Therefore, recognizing the early warning signs is the key to saving lives.


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