Superficial spreading malignant melanoma
Suspicion of a possible malignant melanoma requires urgent referral to local screening services, usually run by a dermatologist, within two weeks.
Malignant melanoma is the most common cancer in the UK and accounts for 4 per cent of all new cases in both men and women. Incidence trends have been rising sharply since the year 2000. As the most serious cutaneous cancer, early recognition and treatment are essential if good results are to be obtained.
Those at greatest risk of developing malignant melanoma are the blue-eyed and fair-skinned people who readily burn on exposure to ultraviolet light and the sun. The risk is greater for those with a previous or family history of malignant melanoma, those with multiple 'benign moles' or with a giant hairy pigmented naevus.
Such patients should be warned to watch for change in existing moles or the development of new ones, after the age of puberty. Comparisons may be helped by photographs of existing lesions or mole mapping at the dermatology clinic.
These first two pictures (above and right) provide a good idea of the features to note when identifying malignant melanoma. You will note that the lesion above has an asymmetric, irregular outline and patchy colour, and this lesion to the right features varying colours within it.