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Wayne PA 19087

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer. While it is completely curable when detected early, it can be deadly if not treated. Risk factors for malignant melanoma include: excessive sun exposure, fair skin that burns and freckles, and a family history of melanoma. Melanomas can develop from an existing mole or grow anew. Lentigo maligna is a slow growing type of melanoma that occurs ont the head and neck. If left untreated, it can become more aggressive and even fatal.

How to recognize a melanoma

The appearance of melanoma is different from normal moles. While normal moles have sharp borders and uniform color, melanomas are irregular in color and border (Figures 1-3) .The ABCDEs can be helpful in identifying a suspicious mole:

A= Asymmetry of shape

B= Border irregularity (scalloped edges or hazy borders)

C= color variation (multiple shades of brown or red)

D=Diameter greater than 6mm

E= Evolution or change in a mole

A mole that displays these features should be evaluated by your dermatologist.

 Fig 1. Superficial spreading melanoma with assymetry and irregular borders.


Fig 2. Superficial spreading melanoma with irregular borders and variable color


Fig 3. Lentigo maligna (melanoma in situ) looks like an irregular, large freckle


 Fig 4. Lentigo maligna melanoma on the ear with irregular pigmentation

Treatment of Melanoma

Surgical excision is the primary treatment of melanoma and can result in a greater than 95% cure rate when treated early. The recommended width and depth of the excision will depend on the greatest depth of penetration below the surface of the skin. Mohs micrographic surgery is often used to treat superficial  (in situ) melanoma on the face and neck (Figures 3 and 4 above) in order to ensure complete removal while preserving normal skin.

Dr. Humphreys treats all types of melanoma and has performed numerous melanoma surgeries. While surgery is the definitive treatment for malignant melanoma, the value of additional therapies can be discussed with you.