Four Types of Melanoma

Health Writer

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It develops in the melanocytes, which are the skin cells that make melanin, which gives skin it's pigment, or color. There are a number of different types of melanoma, each with their own characteristics, treatment and outlook. The four most common types of melanoma are: superficial spreading melanoma, nodular melanoma, lentigo maligna melanoma and acral lentiginous melanoma.

Superficial spreading melanoma

Superficial spreading melanoma (SSM) is the most common form of melanoma, making up about 70 percent of all all melanomas. It occurs more often in females than in amles and can occur at any age. This type of skin cancer usually develops at the spot of a previous mole. It has irregular borders and can vary in color: brown, black, gray, blue, pink, red or white. There can be different colors within the same lesion.

It usually starts as a flat or slightly raised spot. On women it is more comon on the legs; in men it is more commonly found on the chest and back. It grows slowly in the beginning and grow outward before growing into the skin. It does not normally spred to other parts of the body until it grows inward.

Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma is commonly found on the chest or back, areas that aren't always exposed to the sun. Unlike SSM, this type of melanoma grows inward quickly although there is often a raised area on the skin as well. By the time it is diagnosed, it has often already started to grow inward as it is the most aggressive form of melanoma. It is usually dark brown, brownish black of black in color but can also be glue, gray, white, tan, red or skin tone.Between 10 and 15 percent of melanomas are nodular melanomas. It is more common in men and it is usually found on the trunk, legs, arms and scalp. While it can begin at any age, it is most common in those over 60 years old.

Lentigo maligna melanoma

Lentigo malgna melanoma (LMM) is most common in elderly people and are most often found on the face or other areas that get a ot of sun exposure, such as the ears, arms and upper trunk. It is mostly found in the elderly and those people who have spent a great deal of time in the sun. it begins as a lentigo maligna, also called Hutchison's freckle, in the surface layers of the skin. At this stage, it may grow and change shape. When, and if, it begins to grow downward into the deeper layers of the skin it is considered a lentigo maligna melanoma although this type of cancer has a lower risk of spreading than other types of melanoma.

Acral lentiginous melanoma

Acral lentiginous melanoma is found on the soles of the feet, on the palms of the hands and in the nail beds, usually around the big toe. It is more common on the feet than on the hands and is more common in people of color. It spreads superficially before it spreads downward into lower layers of the skin. It can spread quicker than SSM or lentigo maligna melanoma. Many people do not get diagnosed with ALM until it is more developed because in the early stages, it often resembles a bruise or a streak under the nail.

Early detection and treatment of any type of skin cancer is important. If you have any lesions or spots that follow the ABCDE rule: asymmetrical, uneven borders, a variety of colors, a diameter larger than ¼ inch, and evolving in shape, color or elevation, you should consult with your dermatologist as soon as possible. Research has provided new ways to detect melanoma earlier and better treatment options.

For more information:

How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer

Living with Melanoma

Why Some People Are More at Risk of Melanoma

What's New in Melanoma Research?

References:

"Four Types of Melanoma, Date Unknown, SkinCancerNet, SkinCancerPhysicians.com

"Types of Melanoma," Date Unknown, Skin Cancer Foundation