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Recognizing Melanoma

Each year, over 75,000 Americans find out they have melanoma. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer arising from skin cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin color. Melanoma makes up less than one percent of skin cancers. It tends to spread quickly, but it’s almost always curable when you catch it early. 

Dignity Health doctors can diagnose melanoma on your skin and provide fast treatment — offering personal cancer care at every stage. If you’d like to meet with an expert about melanoma in the Bay Area, Find a Doctor.

Melanoma Symptoms

Melanoma usually starts as a new brown or black skin spot or a change in a skin mole that you already have. You can recognize the signs and symptoms of melanoma by using the ABCDE system:

  • A is for asymmetry, a mole that is larger on one side than the other.
  • B is for borders with uneven or notched edges.
  • C is for color, a variety of colors. Most melanomas are either brown or black. However, melanomas can also be multi-colored, speckled, skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue, or white.
  • D is for diameter, larger than 6 mm or the size of a pencil eraser.
  • E is for evolving changes in size, color, or thickness. 

Moles that start to itch or bleed can also be signs of melanoma. See your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any of these changes.

Melanoma Causes

Almost 90 percent of melanoma cases are due to exposure to UV light, either from natural sun exposure or a tanning bed. Your chances of developing it double after you have just five sunburns.

Your genes may also put you at risk. If you have a close relative — a parent or sibling — who has had melanoma, your risk increases by about 50 percent. About one out of every 10 people with melanoma has a family history of it.

Other risk factors include:

  • Blonde or red hair
  • Blue eyes
  • Fair skin
  • Many skin moles – more than 100

Melanoma Treatment at Dignity Health

Surgery is the main treatment for all stages of melanoma. Other treatment options include immunotherapy and targeted therapy. Radiation therapy and chemotherapy may be useful for advanced cases or to keep melanoma from coming back. 

At St. Mary’s Melanoma Center, we provide a high standard of care to evaluate and treat all stages of melanoma. For more information, please call (415) 750-5660. For a doctor referral, call (800) 444-2303.

You can take steps to prevent melanoma by minimizing your exposure to UV light: 

  • Use sunscreen.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Seek shade.
  • Wear UV-protective clothing and accessories during exposure to sunlight.

If you’re at an increased risk, talk with your Dignity Health doctor about regular skin exams and screenings today. 

Dignity Health hospitals in the Bay Area provide the latest treatment for melanoma in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.