Have you heard of The Ugly Duckling Sign? Can you believe that something like this could save your life?
Today is Melanoma Monday. Did you know that melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer? These cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damaged by UV radiation and sun trigger mutations and changes to skin cells. This can lead to malignant tumors not just on the skin. Melanoma can spread throughout the body including the brain. Melanomas often resemble moles; some even develop from existing moles.. The majority of melanomas are black and are caused mainly by intense exposure to UV exposure (frequent sunburns). An estimated 192,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019 with an estimated 7,200 deaths.
Now that we have learned a little about what Melanoma is, how do we detect it early?
It requires vigilance. Vigilant skin exams even in winter months! But what are you looking for you ask.
A good rule of thumb regarding moles or new skin lesions is to recognize any NEW OR CHANGING areas on your body. Places or lesions that bleed, itch, or sores that are just not heeling are cause for another look by a medical professional. Because Melanoma is so deadly, there are two strategies in place to help with the most possible detection: the ABCDEs and the Ugly duckling sign.
The Ugly Duckling sign is based on the concept that melanomas look “different” than other surrounding moles. This concept was introduced to me after I was diagnosed with a Stage I Melanoma (in situ). In situ is localized to the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. The concept is that a person’s “normal” moles look or resemble each other, like siblings, while the potential melanoma is an “outlier”, a lesion that, at a given moment in time, looks or feels different that the person’s other moles. This is NOT always the case however so please see your primary care provider if you feel you have an area that is changing or could be an ugly duckling.
Stay tuned throughout the day and we will learn more on the ABCDE method!
Source: skincancer.org (2019). Melanoma Warning Signs and Images.
Now that we know about the Ugly Duckling, lets learn about the partnership between that and the ABCDE method. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.
The benign mole, left, is not asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match, meaning it is symmetrical. If you draw a line through the mole on the right, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.
B- A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.
Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (¼ inch or 6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.
By Diana Miller, NP, Jeffersonville Office