Cutaneous melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer and is the sixth most common cancer in men and seventh most common cancer in women. The outcome and survival rate of cutaneous melanoma is dependent on the stage of the disease at diagnosis (Table 18-1).
TABLE 18-1Stages of Melanoma and Mortality ||Download (.pdf) TABLE 18-1 Stages of Melanoma and Mortality
Early stage—Localized diseasea
Primary tumors ≤1 mm in thickness
Primary tumors >1 mm in thickness
Cutaneous melanoma arises from melanocytes located at the epidermal and dermal layers of the skin and the choroids of the eyes. Melanocytes help synthesize melanin, a brown pigment deeper layers of tissues from ultraviolet radiation damage (eg, sun damage). Cutaneous melanoma is a result of malignant skin transformation from skin melanocytes or preexisting nevocellular nevi (moles). Although the etiology of cutaneous melanoma is not fully understood, many risk factors have been identified. Risk for cutaneous melanoma includes personal or family history of melanoma, presence of multiple atypical moles or dysplastic nevi, previous history of non-melanoma skin cancer (eg, basal cell and squamous cell), and immunosuppression. Incidence of cutaneous melanoma increases with intermittent intense ultraviolet sun exposure over chronic periods. Individuals with fair-colored skin, hair (red or blond), and eyes (blue and green) who sunburn easily are at increased risk as well.
Normal nevi present as an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. They are round or oval in shape, and appear flat or raised. Nevi are generally less than 6 mm in diameter and stay about the same size, shape, and color. However, any nevi that change size, shape, or color are suspicious and require evaluation by a dermatologist. The ABCDE rule of cutaneous melanoma is a useful tool to identify suspicious lesions. A is asymmetry where one-half of the mole does not match the other half; B is border irregularity where the edges of the mole are often irregular, blurred, ragged, or notched; C is color where the color of the mole is not uniform, it may appear with different shades of tan or blue-black, and sometimes mixed with colors of red, purple, and white; D is diameter where lesions are often more than 6 mm in diameter, although cutaneous melanoma can sometimes present with lesions of less than 6 mm in diameter; E is evolving or changing characteristics of a lesion.
Classification of Melanoma
Traditional classification of melanoma is a combination of clinical and microscopic features and depends on the location and presentation of the primary lesions. Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of ...