Save Lives from Melanoma by Running the New York City Marathon

The Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) is proud to be entering our 8th straight year as an official charity partner of the New York Road Runners Association (NYRR).

In 2017, the prestigious New York City Marathon was also the world’s largest. The tremendous amount of overall participation, national interest and substantial media coverage will once again combine to make the NYC Marathon an excellent platform from which to showcase our melanoma skin cancer education programs.

(2017 NYC Marathon)





Admission Accomplished

There are only 3 ways to enter the 2018 marathon. Be an elite runner, win a spot in the lottery that was held on February 28th, or run to support a charity. If you’re pinning your hopes to your name being drawn, you may have a better chance to win the actual lottery. Only 17% of applicants will find February 28th to be their lucky day. That is where we come in.

Run for the Money

We’re a non-profit organization whose only concern; only reason for existence, is to educate people as much as possible about melanoma until the inevitable day when medical science learns how to destroy it.

At just $2,500, in 2018 NYRR has set the lowest minimum contribution requirement to enter the NYC Marathon. Additionally, MEF itself will pay the $295 entry fee for each runner; a deal unmatched by few other charities, if any.

Tangible Results

Very often, good people who perform some action, or donate money for charity, are left with no idea about whether what they’ve done has had any impact. This picture is proof positive that contributions have made a world of difference:





Middle school student Adrianna (on left), and high school student Mary (on right), are both alive today because they found melanomas early enough to save their lives after their schools presented our MEF lessons to them. Contributions made by NYC Marathon runners helped make results like this possible.

These runners, and all of those who’ve contributed, and continue to contribute going forward, have done their parts to help save countless young lives. And not only their lives, but those of teachers, friends and family who they’ve helped to teach what to look for. Sooner or later, skin cancer education will put melanoma down for the count. And not a moment too soon.

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Window Pain: A Clear Connection to Melanoma

Most people wouldn’t even think of driving their cars without first buckling their seat-belts, and with good reason. They’re an excellent precaution to take and continue to save countless lives. But wearing seat-belts isn’t the only thing we need to do to protect ourselves while on the roads.

What’s Out of Sight, Still Keep in Mind

We see daily reminders, in the form of accidents, of why following the traffic laws is so important to our safety. But we don’t see UV (ultraviolet) rays. Unprotected exposure to UV rays while driving can cause skin damage and melanoma, which can eventually lead to the same unfortunate result as a fatal car wreck. Just not quite as quickly.

Glass Half-Empty

Thanks to the added plastic layer that keeps them from shattering, windshields offer protection against the effects of UVA and UVB rays. Unfortunately, aside from higher-end vehicles such as those built by Lexus and Mercedes, that’s not the case with rear and side windows. They block UVB rays, but still allow enough UVA rays in to damage our skin. And while window tints are useful at helping to preserve a driver’s anonymity, they’re useless at increasing UVA protection.

Sunshine on Your Shoulder Won’t Make You Happy

With apologies to the late John Denver, the sunlight that penetrates insufficiently-protected car windows can do real damage to the skin of an exposed shoulder. And more frequently to the left side of a driver’s face, as it’s rarely (if ever) covered up.

Glass is Now in Session

Researchers have learned that, while both genders are affected by skin cancers and melanomas on the left side of their faces, the occurrences are more frequent in male drivers. This may in part be due to women being more attentive to their faces regarding sunscreen and sunscreen-infused cosmetics.

Glass, Dismissed

A simple Google or Amazon search will yield numerous low-cost plastic UVA-blocking films that can easily be installed on either car or home window glass. Purchasing both types will provide optimum protection.

Now See Here

Nearly all plastic lenses within prescription eyeglasses protect completely against both UVB and UVA rays. The UV coatings often pitched by opticians are unnecessary. The only exception is CR39 lenses. They’ll protect you against UVA rays, but still allow 10% transmission of UVB. Adding clip-on sunglasses over prescription glasses with plastic lenses won’t offer you any significant UVA protection. However, wrap-around sunglasses will protect more skin around your eyes.

An Awesome Spectacle

There is no reason to empty your wallet on a high-cost pair of protective shades. Any non-prescription plastic-lens sunglasses labelled either “100% UV Protective” or “UV 400”, will provide you with complete protection against both UVB and UVA rays.

You can find a good variety of these sunglasses for as little as one buck at any dollar store, or $5-$10 at most discount “Big Box” retailers. You’ll look great while keeping your eyes safe. And if you lose the pair you can easily replace them for pocket change.

The Greenhouse Effect

If you plan on building a greenhouse on your property, choose clear polyethylene sheeting instead of glass. The former contains UV absorbing additives that will protect all occupants against both UVA and UVB rays.

*Additional information source articles:, Eyeglass lens materials.docx, UV Exposure Thru Car Windows.docx

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Melanoma Myths

Some myths can be fun or interesting. Who hasn’t wondered if there really is a living dinosaur concealed beneath the cold waves of Scotland’s Loch Ness? Or if some supernatural force is responsible for the disappearances of numerous ships and planes that were travelling across the infamous Bermuda Triangle?

Myths about health and disease, however, are a whole different ballgame. Believing the wrong ones can lead to injury, sickness and even death.

Melanoma is a potentially fatal disease that can, nevertheless, be either prevented or cured by people who know and abide by the facts. In this blog we present 8 common melanoma myths, followed by the actual truth behind each one.

We urge you to save this vital information for yourself, and to post it on your social media platforms.


It’s just a skin cancer, something small on your skin can’t kill you.


Yes, it can. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) predicts that over 13,000 Americans will be killed by some form of skin cancer in 2018. That averages out to more than 1 American death every hour of every day. Size doesn’t matter.


By the time you know you have it it’s too late.


This assumption can easily cost someone his or her life. While it’s true that melanoma can be fatal, it’s the timing of the diagnosis and treatment that determines the ultimate outcome. If caught early enough, melanoma has nearly a 100% cure rate. The mortality risk continues to rise with the passage of time. Which is why suspicious skin growths must be examined by a dermatologist without delay.


Melanomas are always black.


No, they’re not. Melanomas can be black. But they can also be blue-black, dark brown, brown-red, red, pink, grey, flesh-tone, or light to medium brown. Click here to read more facts about the two main types of the disease, nodular and radial, in greater detail.


If you get melanoma you need radiation and chemo to treat it.


A melanoma diagnosis is confirmed after a pathologist examines the excised mole or other skin growth. The excision (which includes a small amount of the surrounding healthy tissue) usually takes place in-office. If the malignancy is caught early enough, the excision itself is usually the cure. If it has gone beyond that, dermatologists have numerous treatment options at their disposal. They will employ the treatment that best suits a given patient’s condition. Chemo and radiation are generally ineffective against melanoma.


Teens and children don’t get melanoma.


Melanoma can develop at any time, from the day we’re born until the day we die. This is an equal opportunity disease that plays no favorites. It doesn’t care about age, gender, color or race. Parents and guardians have a responsibility to educate and protect their children from skin cancer, and step one is learning the truth. It’s difficult to imagine anything in life worse than a terminally ill child. Click on the link to read the facts about childhood melanoma.


Your primary care doctor can tell you if you have melanoma.


General practitioners usually lack sufficient training to accurately determine what’s actually melanoma, and what is merely a benign growth or a melanoma mimic. Even a trained dermatologist can’t always tell if a suspicious skin growth is cancerous just by looking. The difference, however, if he or she has the experience, diagnostic technology and resources that a GP does not.


It takes months to get an appointment with a dermatologist.


While it’s true that many dermatologist appointments are scheduled a few months in advance, they can be expedited when a patient detects something suspicious on his or her skin. In such cases call your dermatologist, tell him or her that you have a growth that looks like a photo of a melanoma, and request to receive any open time slot he or she may have. Or any opening due to a cancellation. If after a week you haven’t been seen, there are other options. You can learn more about them through this link.


Sunscreen with a high SPF will protect you from skin cancer and melanoma.


It depends. In order to receive the full SPF (Sun protection factor) effect, the sunscreen must be applied correctly. The typical person uses only 25% of what’s needed to obtain that full effect. An SPF 100 sunscreen applied at 25% has an effective SPF of only 3.1. If you are in a swimsuit, you need to apply an amount equivalent to a full shot glass (more for larger/taller people). Every inch of exposed skin should be evenly covered, and it should be re-applied every 2 hours at minimum. Even sooner if you have been swimming or sweating.


Getting a base tan before going on vacation to a warm sunny country or state will protect you from skin cancer.  


Getting a base tan to protect against skin cancer is like eating doughnuts to avoid obesity. This is one of the more egregious skin cancer myths out there, and it needs to be quickly put to rest. Any unprotected sun exposure, either natural or artificial, can cause skin damage, skin cancer and/or melanoma.

When the subject is melanoma, it’s just the facts, ma’am (and sir). Just the facts.

*Additional information source articles: AAD,

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Occupational Risk of Melanoma

It’s likely that you have heard about some of the more highlighted workplace-related cancers. For example, the famously reported connection between asbestos, (a material at one time used in buildings and warehouses as a fire retardant) and lung cancer. But we rarely hear of any connections between specific vocations and melanoma. Such relationships do exist, and within this post we’ll address some of them.


Members of “The Bravest” profession are unsung heroes. They routinely put their lives at stake to save the lives of others. Unfortunately, the dangers they face don’t come exclusively from smoke and the flames they work so hard to extinguish.

The amount of heat that some fires are capable of generating is massive. When that heat consumes wood, plastics, polymers and oil-based products they release dangerous carcinogens. These include, (though are not limited to) soot, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and dioxins. Exposure to these chemicals increase the risk of melanoma in firefighters by 30-45%.

Flying the Unfriendly Skies: Airline Pilots and Flight Crews

Many of the millions of automobile drivers within the U.S. don’t think about how much we’re affected by the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays while driving the nation’s roadways. (Auto glass is easily breached by UVA rays, which is why sunscreen should always be applied prior to lengthy drives).

It’s not much different for airline pilots and flight crews. Research studies reveal that while aircraft windows block over 99% of UVB rays, they can allow 50% of UVA rays to penetrate. As a result, flight crews have around twice the risk of non-flight-based individuals. In fact, “Pilots flying for 56.6 minutes at 30 000 feet receive the same amount of UV-A carcinogenic effective radiation as that from a 20-minute tanning bed session.”*

For those who may be unaware, “zero” is always the correct answer to the question of how many minutes anyone should ever spend in a tanning bed.

If you’re a passenger who has booked a coveted window seat, it’s advisable to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen prior to departure and bring extra with you. Many “dollar” stores sell miniature tubes, which are perfect for air travel.

Welders, Cooks and Ocular Melanoma

While nothing has yet been definitively proven, studies have shown that there may be a link between occupational cooking, welding and ocular melanoma. The relevant source article cited below provides these specific causes regarding the former:

“During the cooking, workers may expose to many cooking fumes, high radiation from microwaves, strong light from incandescent ovens, and infrared radiation…”

About the latter, the flame of a welder’s torch emits its’ own UV rays. Welders also endure a higher risk for traditional melanoma, other skin cancers and skin damage in general. Particularly when the trade’s protective suit, or parts of it such as gloves, are not worn while welding.

The Leather, Brewing and Printing Industries

Leather workers, such as those who produce shoes, are exposed to the dangerous chemicals required to complete the tanning process. (Leather tanning, not sun tanning). Workers in the printing and brewing (and malt-processing) industries are likewise exposed to carcinogens specific to their trades.

It is of significant importance for employees working in these vocations to follow the safety regulations of their companies to the letter, along with the laws of common sense.

*Additional information source articles: Firefighter Cancer, Firefighters, Airplane Pilots and Crew (A), Airplane Pilots and Crew (B), Airplane Pilots and Crew (C), Welders, Cooks and Ocular Melanoma, Swedish Study on Shoes, Breweries and Printing,

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Melanoma Potpourri

There is always something new to learn about melanoma, and skin cancer in general. Through this blog, we’re able to continually reach countless people with these updates and contribute to the public’s education on the subject.

We also know that it’s important to occasionally look back and help refresh memories on the basics of this disease. That’s what we’ve done here today.

Of course, we can’t fit every bit of data into a single blog post. So, we’ve focused on a few of the most important melanoma subtopics. We’re presenting this in easy-to-read bullet point form with the hope that readers will bookmark this post for easily-repeatable access.

For those who are interested in more in-depth information on a given post, each bold headline is also a clickable link directly back to the original article on its topic.

Nodular Melanoma

  • Most dangerous of the two main types of melanoma (Radial is the other)
  • Typically presents initially on previously unblemished skin
  • Often dome-shaped
  • Can be multiple colors, though usually black, blue-black, dark brown or brown-red
  • Unlike most skin cancers, begins its development beneath the skin’s surface
  • Constitutes about 20% in adults, but 40%-60% in teens, pre-teens and adolescents

Amount of Sunscreen Applied vs. SPF (Sun Protection Factor)

  • Sunscreen is an excellent skin-protector, but only if applied and re-applied correctly
  • Most sunscreen users apply only 25% of the amount needed to enjoy its full protective impact
  • Minimum amount to apply if wearing a bathing suit would fill a shot glass
  • A sufficient amount of sunscreen must be applied evenly over all sun-exposed skin to achieve maximum effectiveness
  • Sunscreen must be re-applied every two hours at minimum. More frequently if the wearer has been swimming and/or sweating

Melanoma in Children

  • Anyone can develop melanoma from the day he or she is born
  • Up to 10 years old, melanoma is frequently red; though it can present as pink or flesh-colored
  • Melanoma in 11-18-year-olds is similar in appearance to melanoma in adults
  • Infants should be completely protected from the sun until they’re at least 6 months old

The Melanoma Education Foundation’s (MEF) Skin Cancer Lessons

  • Focus is on helping middle and high school health educators correctly teach their students about melanoma detection and prevention
  • Research data reveals these lessons are extremely effective
  • Taught in over 1,700 schools in all 50 states
  • Brief and to the point to accommodate the short attention spans of young people
  • More effective than sun safety-based lessons
  • To learn more, teachers and parents may watch this 3-minute long introductory video. Afterward, teachers can register for totally free access to the lesson-videos and other free resources.

Self-examining for Early Signs of Melanoma

  • Highly-effective tool for use in early melanoma detection
  • Most patients discover their own melanoma before their doctors do
  • Unless there’s something visually obvious or the subject is broached to them, most doctors don’t even bother checking for skin cancer during routine appointments
  • 30% of melanomas develop on skin that is rarely exposed to the sun
  • Once a month, check your entire body for suspicious or changing moles and skin growths. Including under the hair.
  • Employ mirrors and/or a significant other/good friend to assist checking areas you cannot see
  • Ask hair stylists and tattoo artists to alert you if they come across any suspicious-looking growths
  • If caught early enough, melanoma’s cure rate is nearly 100%. If allowed to develop untreated, with enough time it will nearly always become fatal. Early detection is paramount.

More Tanning Salons Ignoring State Laws

  • About 40% of tanning salons ignore state laws, and very often get away with doing so
  • Tanning leads to a massive increase in the odds of developing skin cancer; especially in young women, who frequent these salons more than any other age and gender demographic
  • More skin cancer is caused by tanning beds than lung cancer is caused by smoking

We encourage you to read any of the wide variety of previous posts on our blog, along with our weekly new posts. You my also click on our two websites below for more good information on this horrible, yet mostly preventable, disease.

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Eye Freckles: A New Melanoma Risk Factor in Younger Individuals

Due to Australia’s very high prevalence of skin cancer, that country’s medical scientists are well-motivated to search for new information and improved treatments on and for the disease. One example of this are reports out of Queensland revealing “that freckles and moles appearing on the iris indicate a high risk of melanoma, particularly in people under 40 years of age.”*

Also, that “…the presence of three or more iris pigmented lesions was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of melanoma.”

The Eyes Have it

Eye freckles are melanoma indicators that go beyond the others, such as skin/eye/hair color. Fortunately, unlike the less visible areas on our bodies, almost all of us look right at our own eyes every day. If you don’t already, going forward it would be wise to take a moment each month to study your iris while shaving, brushing your teeth, etc. Even better, just incorporate it into your brief, monthly skin self-exams.

This photo is an example of what you should be looking for when you do:





A See of Difference

To avoid any confusion, it’s important to remember that eye freckles are not the same thing as Ocular Melanoma. The former is a risk factor for the melanoma most commonly found on the skin. The latter is an actual cancer within the eye, and one of the few melanomas that are not believed to be caused by UV (ultraviolet) ray exposure.

Travelling at the Speed of Sight

Once melanoma works itself beyond the skin, it can travel anywhere within the body via the bloodstream and/or lymphstream. When that occurs, it will inevitably attack another organ(s) and/or lymph node(s). That will then drastically reduce a patient’s chance for survival.

However, melanoma has one large flaw and it’s our greatest ally in the battle against it- it announces its arrival while there’s still time to vanquish it. All we have to do (in the majority of cases) is watch out for any new abnormal moles and skin growths- or changes to old ones -and then quickly have any that are found examined by a dermatologist.

Most people walking along a train track would step off it if they saw a train coming at them. Spotting but then ignoring a melanoma is like seeing that train, and then watching it as it runs right through, and destroys, your body. Make no mistake, in time melanoma will do to the inside of a body what a train would do to its outside.

A Look into the Future

Remember, the eyes may be the windows to the soul, but they are also windows into early melanoma detection. And if caught early enough, melanoma has a cure rate of nearly 100%.

*Additional information sources: The British Journal of Dermatology, The British Journal of Dermatology (2)

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All Skin Cancer Lessons are not Created Equal

When trying to educate adolescents and teens about skin cancer, it’s very important that the information presented is not only correct, but also properly focused. Words that fall on primarily deaf ears are useless; rendering the material ineffective.

How do We Know?

The Melanoma Education Foundation (MEF) was founded by its president Stephen Fine in 1999, one year after his 26-year old son Daniel tragically passed away from the disease. From that day to this, Steve and the MEF have studied the most beneficial ways to get teens to absorb critical information on melanoma.

We learned long ago that concentrating on education is more impactful than research. Catching skin cancer early or preventing it before it has a chance to get started is preferable to trying to cure it long after it develops.

An excellent way to achieve that goal is give middle and high school health educators free, simple access to accurate, easily teachable information. To that end, we’ve created melanoma lessons for teachers to present to their students.

The attention span of teens has never been shorter, and few have the patience to listen intently to a long-winded monologue on a disease. That’s why it’s vital to speak to them in their own language, and make the lessons brief and easily digestible.

Our lessons were created based on the data gathered from teen focus groups. Our videos feature teens talking about their firsthand experiences directly to other teens. The MEF’s free The Melanoma Lessons are being taught in over 1,700 schools all across the United States. We know how much they’re working, too.

We’ve received hundreds of accounts and positive survey responses of melanoma being stopped dead in its tracks due to our lessons. And not only in the students themselves, but within their families. Some health educators have even saved their own lives by virtue of having information on melanoma about which they were previously unaware.

Why Are Our Melanoma Lessons More Effective than Others?

There are multiple reasons why our lessons are so successful.

  • Extensive research has revealed that sun safety-based skin cancer lessons are unsuccessful in getting teens to change their behaviors toward UV (ultraviolet) ray exposure.
  • Other teen skin cancer and video textbook lessons provide inadequate information on melanoma in general and none on nodular, the most lethal form of melanoma that disproportionately strikes teens, pre-teens and adolescents.
  • Most skin cancer lessons overstate the importance of SPF (Sun Protection Factor), which is much less important than how much sunscreen is applied. More than 99% of sunscreen users apply far too little to achieve rated SPF values.

To Both Teachers and Parents

If you’re a teacher, do your skin cancer lessons (if any are even on the itinerary) address these issues?

If you’re a parent, are you aware of what, if anything, your teens are being taught about melanoma in school?

If the answers are “no”, we invite you to take just a few brief moments to view this award-winning, 3-minute long introductory video.

After watching the video, teachers may register to access the completely free teen melanoma lessons that have been described as the most effective on the planet.

For Steve it’s personal, and he has worked nonstop to do everything possible to spare people from the pain he and so many others have endured at the hands of this horrific and unnecessary scourge. Please, help us to help you.

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2018 Projected U.S. Melanoma Incidence

The entertainment and sports industries regularly produce countless publications on prognostications that many fans love, and many bettors rely on. They’re full of predictions on things like “who’ll win at the Oscars this year?” or “which teams will draft which quarterbacks?”

They’re popular because the topics are literally fun and games, and there’s no fear attached to reading them. But as is known by virtually everyone, life is not always fun and games. To that end, it may be interesting to learn that the American Cancer Society also publishes an annual list of projections. Only their subject is infinitely more important.

Earlier this month, the ACS released their 2018 edition of Cancer Facts and Figures. It’s an online report within which they announce their numeric expectations for the development of different cancers in the United States. They base their projected statistics of cancer occurrences and mortality on the factual data garnered from the 5-year time period of 2010-2014. The account helpfully includes projections for every U.S. state as well. As a melanoma blog, we’re going to focus on the ACS’s skin cancer data.

Please note that, while much research has gone into calculating them, the following figures are only projections. None are set in stone, but they are interesting for comparison purposes.

Here’s the Skin-ny

In the U.S., the ACS estimates 178,560 new cases of melanoma in 2018. Here, broken down by type, is how they compare with last year’s melanoma projections:


Total: 178,560

Invasive: 91,270

In situ: 87,290


Total: 161,790

Invasive: 87,110

In situ: 74,680

Projected increases from 2017 to 2018:

Invasive: 4.8%

In situ: 16.9%

Projected increases in the male to female ratio:


Men have a 50% greater chance of receiving an invasive melanoma diagnosis than their female counterparts. (In situ diagnosis data is unavailable).

The National Cancer Institute states that data from 2012-2014 revealed that, from cradle-to-grave, men are 50% more likely to contract invasive melanoma. However, more women contract it from the time they’re born up until the age of 49.

Why is that? Unfortunately, there are no concrete or definitive reasons as to why the tables (both literally and figuratively) turn near the half-century mark of life. Although, we can speculate on both sides of the coin.

Many more young women than men use indoor tanning beds, which are directly linked to dangerous, excessive UV (ultraviolet) ray skin exposure.

As for why the numbers go up for men as they age, overall men spend more time outdoors. Also, women typically spend more time concentrating on checking and protecting their skin. Particularly, the areas that are more prone to sun exposure, such as the face, ears and hands.

And while it may be a stereotype, it’s still true. Women simply visit their doctors more often than men. When considering the number of decades in the average lifetime, it’s not too hard to connect the dots.

Again, these are pure hypotheses. But there is an element of common sense within them that is difficult to ignore.

We highly recommend reading the ACS report in its entirety. It, along with additional useful information, can be accessed simply by clicking on the cited links below.

*Additional source article information:,

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Nodular and Radial Melanoma Revisited

Last year we posted a blog that discussed and differentiated between the two primary types of melanoma, Nodular and Radial.

In this post we revisit them in order to offer additional information. Also, to include photographs that provide visuals to better illustrate what to look for when performing monthly skin self-exams.

Both these types of melanoma have the potential to become fatal. However, nodular is the worse of the two evils; mostly due to its propensity to begin its development under the skin. This unfortunately gives it more time to grow before the patient has a chance to detect it.

It cannot be stated or reiterated enough that with any melanoma, the speed of discovery and treatment is far and away the single largest determining factor regarding whether a patient lives or dies.

The best chance of surviving melanoma is to catch it right at its outset. These 3 photos depict nodular melanomas in their earliest stages:




If left untreated, melanoma will get worse until the patient ultimately passes away. These 4 photos show late-stage nodular melanoma. All of these cases, including that of a 12-year old boy, with  nodular on his ankle, were fatal.




Although they develop at a slower pace than nodulars, with time radial melanomas will start growing vertically below the skin’s surface. With either type, the bigger the surface nodules (bumps) get, the less curable the disease becomes.

Large surface bumps are an indication of significant growth beneath the skin. In that way, they are similar to icebergs. The visible portion represents only a small part of the whole, with the far more substantive- and dangerous -ice hidden unseen below the water.

Once a tumor is deep enough to release cancerous cells into the blood stream, it’ll have the capability of reaching any of the body’s other organs and lymph nodes.

These 3 photos show radial melanomas that have nodular features:




It’s important to note that, if a previously flat mole begins developing a bump, time is of the essence and it must be examined by a dermatologist immediately.

*Additional source article information & photos credit:

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Toenail and Fingernail Melanoma

Toenail and Fingernail Melanoma, (more commonly known as Subungual Melanoma) is a rare type of the disease that falls within the Acral Lentiginous Melanoma classification. Like Ocular Melanoma, subungual is one of the few melanomas that medical science does not believe to be caused by UV (ultraviolet) ray exposure.

Where on the Body is Subungual Melanoma Located?

While SM can develop underneath any of our 20 nails, it is most commonly found under a big toenail. On our hands, it’s more likely to be found under a thumbnail.

Who Gets Subungual Melanoma?

Anyone of either gender or any color can be stricken by SM, with the same prevalence throughout all races. However, it’s the most often diagnosed melanoma among people with dark skin tones. Indeed, it was SM that claimed the life of legendary reggae singer Bob Marley at the age of 36.

What to Look for When Checking for Subungual Melanoma

SM’s appearance per the cited, source article:

“Subungual melanoma often starts as a pigment band visible the length of the nail plate (melanonychia). Over weeks to months, the pigment band:

  • Becomes wider, especially at its proximal end (the end of the nail that is closest to the cuticle)
  • Becomes more irregular in pigmentation including light brown, dark brown
  • Extends to involve the adjacent nail fold (Hutchinson sign)
  • May develop a nodule, ulcerate or bleed
  • May cause thinning, cracking or distortion of the nail plate (nail dystrophy).”

These 3 photos are examples of authentic subungual melanomas:











Why are the Above Photographs referenced as “Authentic” Subungual Melanomas?

SM’s have the unfortunate characteristic of being very similar in appearance to Black Thumbnail Fungus and Subungual Hematomas. The former is a very common nail infection, and the latter is just an ordinary nail bruise. Both can be annoying and/or painful, but they are easily treatable. Whereas SM can easily be fatal if ignored after being mistaken for either.

Subungual Hematomas

These bruises have been incurred by countless people at one time or another. They’re obtained through accidental actions such as slamming a thumb in a door, or hitting it with a hammer. Pressure generated by the collection of blood under the nail often causes intense pain. Melanomas under the nail are usually painless unless they are late stage.

This presents another problem as many assume that if something doesn’t hurt, there’s nothing to be concerned about.

This photo is one example of a subungual hematoma:





Most nail fungus infections are yellowish, but can sometimes be black. This photo is one example of black thumbnail fungus:





As can now clearly be seen, if all these photos were presented without captions, it would be very difficult to distinguish the 2 benign conditions from the 3 potentially lethal ones above them.

It bears repeating. The single most important factor in either being cured of melanoma or dying from it, is the speed of diagnosis and treatment. With suspicious changes to the skin, nothing should ever be brushed off or assumed.

*Additional source article information & photographs:, (Licensing)

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