Melanoma Information

Information you need to know about melanoma.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It forms from the melanocytes, the cells that manufacture pigment in the skin.  It can form by malignant transformation of a pre-existing mole or can form de novo, on previously normal skin.  Because melanoma forms from pigment cells, the melanoma cancer will usually be pigmented and Melanoma will often appear as a darker spot in the skin. It can be brown, dark brown or black. It can also have other colors in it including red (from more blood vessels), blue (from deeper pigment), or white (from atrophy).

Melanoma is the 6th most common cancer in the United States and the incidence is rising so we are trying to make our population aware of this cancer. It can metastasize to other parts of the body and when it does it is often fatal.  But when it is caught early it has a very high cure rate. That’s why it’s critical to see your dermatologist regularly for routine preventative skin exams and to evaluate any suspicious lesions.

You can use the ABCD rule to help you recognize suspicious lesions:
AAsymmetry in the lesion, one side different from the other side
BBorder irregularity, with a notched or ragged border
CColor variegation, especially if there are multiple colors in the lesion
DDiameter greater than 6 mm. (the size of a pencil eraser)

Other signs that a lesion should be evaluated include significant change in size, shape or color, or a mole with itching or burning.  More serious signs include elevation, bluish-black color, crusting, oozing, bleeding, & ulceration.

To learn about other forms of Skin Cancer, click here to go to our Skin Cancer page.

Photos - Melanomas and other Skin Cancers can vary widely in their appearance. For some examples of this please go to the Melanoma section of our photo gallery.

Prevention – There is a high risk of skin cancer in the South in both men and women and in all skin types.  There is an additional risk with light colored skin, eyes or hair, or a family history of melanoma. The best prevention is to use sunscreens regularly and take precautions against excess sun exposure.  It’s important to pay attention to your body, & to do skin self-exams.

If there are suspicious lesions, see the proper specialist right from the start. A non-dermatologic physician may not know what they are looking at or treat correctly, may leave more of a scar, have a higher recurrence rate and treatment may be more expensive.

Treatment - A Dermatologist specializes in treating the skin and is the doctor best able to diagnose and select the most appropriate treatment for skin cancer.  Generally when there is a suspicious lesion we excise it or take a biopsy from part of it and send that for pathology to test it.  If there is a melanoma present we excise it with a wider margin of normal appearing skin around it.  Melanomas are classified by thickness and depending on the thickness and area there may need to be other treatments.  Routine follow-up is important to catch any recurrence or new lesion early.

Dr. Steinberg specializes in the care and treatment of skin cancer and related disorders. He has treated more than 10,000 skin cancers.  He is trained in and uses a number of kinds of treatment for skin cancer, not just one method. Radiation therapy and Mohs surgery are indicated in rare cases and we offer them in those situations where there is a benefit for the patient. We work with other specialists and provide the broadest range of options for skin cancer. In addition, with the special focus that our office has on cosmetic treatments and outcomes, we pay very close attention to the aesthetic outcome and to minimizing scarring.


Advanced Dermatology Center of Columbus- Dr Thomas Steinberg MD

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