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.

To visit our websites, please click: and/or

Facebook: Melanoma Education Foundation

Twitter: @FindMelanoma

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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Melanoma on the Scalp

Six percent of melanomas develop on the scalp and neck but are responsible for 10% of all deaths resulting from the disease.

The specific reasons for this remain unclear, but the scientific community does have a couple of hypotheses. In most patients, abnormal moles and skin growths are hard to see because they’re covered by hair. Also, there are more blood and lymph vessels located beneath the scalp than there are anywhere else on the body. Additionally, skin cancer on a person’s scalp has a short route to his or her brain.

What Does it Look Like?

Most appear as a brownish or black spot with darker irregular colors and borders. Although most are dark, some can appear as a firm pinkish red lump. Any previously existing mole or skin growth that changes in size, texture or appearance should be considered a huge red flag.

These 3 photographs all depict melanoma of the scalp:





Are There Ways to Improve the Chances of Discovering it?

Yes, there are. When doing your monthly skin self-exam use a long-handled mirror in combination with a well-lighted wall mirror. Use a hairbrush or dryer to part the hair. Be thorough. Spend the same amount of time checking under your hair as you do on all the rest of your body, combined. If you are unable to check your scalp, ask a close friend or significant other to check for you.

Ask your barber or hair stylist to alert you if he or she should notice any out-of-the-ordinary marks while cutting your hair. They’re not doctors, of course. But if something odd is discovered, a person can then quickly make an appointment with a dermatologist to have it checked out properly.

It sounds awkward, and unfortunately that can make people reluctant to ask their hairdressers to do it. That should be of absolutely no concern. It is a totally reasonable request that has become far more commonplace to workers in the industry. Some will even tell their clients if they find anything whether they initially asked them to or not.

Be sure to ask your doctor, or a nurse, to check each time you make a routine appointment. (This is in addition to what is stated above, as most people don’t see their primary care physicians monthly). Ask, because doctors typically don’t go out of their ways to look for skin cancer unless they either notice something obvious, or it’s related to the appointment.

*Additional source article:

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Desmoplastic Melanoma

Desmoplastic melanoma is an uncommon type of melanoma, “in which the malignant cells are surrounded by fibrous tissue.”*

It’s most often diagnosed in pale-toned Caucasian men who are of advancing age, or who are elderly. In New Zealand, (which along with Australia sits atop the list of countries with the highest overall prevalence of skin cancer) desmoplastic melanoma accounts for around 1% of all melanomas. That percentage is likely comparable to its rate of occurrence within the United States.

As one might expect, overexposure to the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays is the primary culprit in the development of desmoplastic melanoma. It’s another result that illustrates why the continual practice of sun-safety is so vital to everyone.

Unfortunately, the appearance of this form of melanoma doesn’t conform to the ABCDE signs  created by dermatologists to help the public know what to look for during their monthly skin self-exams.

That being the case, it’s important to have some idea of what skin growths to be wary of when checking for desmoplastic melanoma. To that effect, presented here are 3 photographs that depict a few of its various looks:





Of course, 3 pictures cannot tell the whole story of any disease. So, in a quote from the cited Derm Net New Zealand article, this is what to pay attention for:

“The most frequently observed dermoscopic features of desmoplastic melanoma are:

  • Features of melanocytic lesion in 50% (pigmented globules or network)
  • Asymmetrical structure and colours
  • Regression features: scar-like areas, grey dots
  • Multiple colours
  • Atypical or polymorphous vascular pattern”

Just like with traditional melanoma, desmoplastic melanoma is first dealt with by being excised and biopsied in order to determine the extent of any damage that has been incurred.

*Additional source articles:, (ABCDE information)

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Spitz Nevus: Mistaken Melanoma in Children

Potentially fatal melanoma is an ugly disease, both literally and figuratively. But it is important to know that it does have several ugly, benign “mimics” that may look similar, yet aren’t harmful.

One such mimic is called Spitz nevus, which sounds scary but is nothing more than an uncommon, seldom cancerous mole that develops primarily in children, adolescents and young adults.

Unfortunately, it can be so close in appearance to melanoma that even a highly-experienced dermatologist may not be able to distinguish whether the mole is cancerous without a biopsy and pathology report. And sometimes even that may not even be enough to confirm a malignancy.

As a result, most doctors and dermatologists won’t make assumptions or take any chances until melanoma is confirmed or ruled out.

Some physicians are not so diligent, however. So, if during your monthly skin self-exam you’ve discovered a new mole, or a previous one, that has changed its color, size, shape- or has bled or oozed, see a dermatologist as quickly as possible. It is vital that you don’t play around with your skin’s health.

At the Melanoma Education Foundation, we fully understand that very few people, if anyone at all, ever looks forward to an appointment with his or her doctor. But the indisputable fact of the matter is that, regarding skin cancer and especially melanoma, the speed of detection and treatment can and will in a very large part determine the difference between whether a patient lives or dies. That is not hyperbole, and it really is just that simple.

And, if an excised mole turns out to be nothing, the patient will gain both peace of mind and the removal of an unsightly skin growth. So, what is there to lose?

This is a photograph of a Spitz Nevus:





Additional source articles:

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Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Our skin cancer blog posts are nearly always focused on some variant of the potentially lethal melanoma. This post, however, will highlight an affliction much rarer and even deadlier- Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC).

Each type of skin cancer carries its own method of development and level of risk. One fact that remains consistent between all of them, however, is that the best chance for a successful outcome is the speed of diagnosis. Melanoma, the worst form of skin cancer, goes from nearly a 100% cure rate if caught earlier enough, to a painfully fatal disease if caught too late. But Merkel Cell Carcinoma is even more dangerous than melanoma, because its speed of growth is much faster.

When a person first notices a skin growth that turns out to be melanoma, there may still be time to stop it in its tracks. When he or she first glimpses MCC, it may already be too late. That’s why the focus should be on picking up on its warning signs, and early self-detection. Doing so will be effective in helping to stop MCC before it has a chance to really get started.

Patients should not wait for regular check-ups. Most doctors don’t even bother checking at all for skin cancer during routine exams unless they’re asked to, they notice something obvious, or there’s some specific reason to do so.

What to Look for

MCC typically presents as a painless skin growth that can be red, blue, purple or even match the color of the surrounding skin. The latter makes it much easier for people to make the crucial error of dismissing MCC as nothing more than a normal skin blemish.

Please note that MCC can easily be mistaken for nodular melanoma, or even a benign melanoma mimic.


For decades, dermatologists have touted the ABCD mnemonic device to remind the public how to look for melanoma during monthly skin self-exams. MCC has a similar, lesser known device, too: AEIOU, the 5 vowels in our alphabet placed in alphabetical order. They stand for: Asymptomatic, Expanding Rapidly, Immune Compromised, Over 50 & UV-Exposed Fair Skin.

Risk Factors

MCC primarily develops in people who are at least 50 years old, those who’ve incurred significant sun exposure and persons whose immune systems have been compromised; such as that which occurs after contracting HIV. Otherwise, MCC takes a similar path, albeit much quicker, to the one melanoma does.

If allowed to metastasize and progress away from the skin, it will head for lymph nodes and other organs such as the lungs, brain, liver and/or bones. Upon arrival it will launch an attack that is difficult for the body, even with significant medical treatment, to successfully defend. If the treatment is unsuccessful, the impact of MCC will most likely result in the patient’s death.

These 3 photographs of Merkel Cell Carcinoma show just how nondescript this disease can look:





Additional source articles:, (Fall 2017, Vol 16, No. 4, author Tara Haelle),

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