This looks like a harmless pimple, but it kills thousands annually. Dermatologists are trying to raise awareness about the most aggressive form of melanoma that doesn’t come with the typical skin cancer symptoms. Growing at four times the rate of other melanomas, nodular melanoma is responsible for nearly 50% all skin cancer related deaths despite accounting for only 15% of all melanoma cases. Here is what to watch for:
Melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, but it is also the most dangerous. Typical melanoma cases start out as a mole that changes in shape or color over a period of time, but nodular melanoma behaves differently. Nodular melanoma starts out as a hard, red bump similar to a pimple. Because of the appearance, doctors often fail to identify the growths as cancer in the early stages. Dermatologists have been more accurate in diagnosing cancers than non-dermatologists.
“Lack of pigmentation is a key reason for failure to recognise these unusual presentations as melanoma,” said Associate Professor John Kelly of the Australasian College of Dermatologists in Melbourne. “This kind of melanoma we see more often in older men and on the head and neck rather than trunk and limbs, but that’s just a slight preference it’s not that they all occur in older men.”
Kelly advises patients to immediately see a doctor if they discover a hard, red bump that gets bigger over a one month period.
“If it has has been present for more than a month and grows bigger and bigger, it needs urgent removal.” Associate Professor Kelly said. “But we don’t want to cause hysteria about every red nodule that people get. Something that has been stable for more than a year is not going to be a worry. And something that has been present of only days or weeks is probably also not a worry.”
It is estimated that only 41% of nodular melanoma cases are initially diagnosed correctly.
“If we are to succeed in further reducing rates of death from melanoma, we must promote awareness amongst health care practitioners of this unusual presentation,” Associate Professor Kelly said.
Sharing this information could save a life. Have a friend or family member help with regular skin checks, and see your doctor often.
Written by Katie McGuire. Follow Katie on Twitter @GOPKatie, or email the author at [email protected]