In my previous post we talked about a subtype of melanoma called lentigo maligna melanoma. In this post we will discuss another melanoma variant called nodular melanoma. While lentigo maligna melanoma is relatively slow growing, nodular melanoma is not. It can be one of the most aggressive types of melanoma and the most lethal. Here are some facts about nodular melanomas:
- Nodular melanomas account for approximately 15% of all melanomas.
- The age of onset is commonly in the early fifties.
- Nodular melanoma is more common in men than women.
- Nodular melanoma progresses rapidly. It tends to grow deeper into the skin in thickness than in diameter. It can grow in weeks to months as opposed to months or years.
- This type of melanoma has the lowest cure rates.
- Common sites for nodular melanoma to develop are the trunk, head, and neck.
- Nodular melanomas range in color from black, dark brown, blue-red, light brown or even colorless (without pigment). They may appear as dome-shaped bumps with a shiny or scaly texture. If you wish to see what this type of melanoma looks like, The New Zealand Dermatological Society has multiple images.
- The lesions can become ulcerated and bleed.
- One of the frightening aspects of nodular melanoma is that it commonly develops in normal skin instead of a pre-existing mole or lesion. Most of us have been taught to look for changes in our moles instead of looking for any new growths. It may be difficult for patients to identify it as cancerous and especially if it is flesh colored. Some people may think it is just a blood blister.
- The Melanoma Hope Network reports that the ABCDE’s of melanoma detection may not apply to nodular melanomas. They suggest an EFG way to identify nodular melanoma.
E - Elevated
F - Firm to touch
G - Growing progressively over more than a month
Latest Research on Nodular Melanoma
One of the recent studies to come out about nodular melanoma was a case study published in a 2009 issue of The Journal of Medical Case Reports. In this case study presentation the authors describe a 51-year old patient who died within a week of his diagnosis of nodular melanoma. Here are some of the conclusions drawn from this study:
- Nodular melanoma tends to spread rapidly and eventually metastasize to vital organs.
- Even in its early stages, nodular melanoma has the potential to spread. It generally lacks an in situ stage of development.
- This type of melanoma may be fatal within months of recognition.
The important message about nodular melanoma is to be aware of growths or lesions which suddenly appear where none existed before. If you are unsure about any new skin developments seek the guidance of a doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.
When in doubt, get it checked out.