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What Is Melanoma Differential Diagnosis?

What Is Melanoma Differential Diagnosis?

20th Apr 2021

According to Dr. Sue Ellen Cox, over 9500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Here's what you need to know about melanoma diagnosis.

With summer fast approaching it's time to go over your checklist. You've got your shorts, sandals, t-shirts, bathing suit, and sunblock.

But is sunblock really enough to keep you protected?

Although there are countless mental and physical health benefits to spending time outside, there is also a huge risk. It's estimated that 7,180 people will die in 2021 due to melanoma, which is only a small percentage of those who will be diagnosed.

Early detection through skin cancer screenings and melanoma differential diagnosis is key. What is melanoma differential diagnosis and how can it help keep you safe? Read more to find out.

Melanoma Differential Diagnosis

Several skin conditions mimic the appearance of melanomas. A melanoma differential diagnosis is a process of elimination, involving a close examination of the spot or spots in question to determine if a different type of skin condition is the culprit.

Atypical Nevi

Atypical nevi, or atypical moles, are the most commonly confused lesions for melanomas in a differential diagnosis. Common moles are brown, tan, or pink spots that usually develop throughout a person's life. However, when a mole is raised or slightly irregular in shape, it can closely resemble a type of skin cancer such as melanoma.

Nevi can sometimes appear slightly blue or black in coloration and occur in large clumps or groups. These formations can be present at birth or appear at a certain age. However, their consistent shape over time is what distinguishes them from melanoma.

Seborrheic Keratoses

These non-cancerous growths appear as raised bumps and can be quite large. They have a "stuck-on" appearance as though someone glued them onto the skin and have a waxy or scaly texture. When irritated, they can prove indistinguishable from nodular melanoma without further testing.

Pigmented Basal Cell Carcinoma

Although this is another form of cancer, it tends to be less dangerous than melanoma due to its slow rate of spread. These lesions normally appear as waxy bumps or open sores, but when pigmented can be easily mistaken for melanoma.

Lentigo

These lesions are similar to freckles, only darker and they do not disappear in winter. They are distinguishable from melanoma due to their clearly defined edges and even pigmentation. New lentigo can appear in people with frequent sun exposure and often cause undue alarm.

What to Look For

There are five key factors to look for when performing a melanoma differential diagnosis. The first is the asymmetry of the mole. You should be able to draw a line through the center and have a mirror image on either side.

Next look for border irregularity. The edges of a normal mole will appear smooth, whereas melanoma will often have jagged or misshapen edges. Color variation within the lesion is another red flag.

Any mole with a diameter of over 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) should be closely examined and monitored. Finally, moles that evolve, or change in any way, are an indication that it's time to visit your doctor. An easy way to remember all these factors is ABCDE:

  • A: Asymmetry
  • B: Border
  • C: Color
  • D: Diameter
  • E: Evolution

If you're uncertain about a particular spot and concerned it might be cancerous, don't hesitate to follow up with your physician.

Melanoma Risk Factors

The majority of melanoma is caused by prolonged exposure to UV rays. This includes natural sources such as being out in nature, as well as artificial light, often found in tanning beds. Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk of skin cancer, specifically developing melanoma.

So whether you frequent the outdoors for your exercise routine, or have regular salon appointments, you should take precautions to protect your skin.

Your medical history also plays a significant role in your chances of developing melanoma. You fall into a higher risk category if you or any of your family members have a history of skin cancer or if you suffer from an immunodeficiency disorder.

Ethnicity can also be a contributing factor. People with fair skin tend to be more susceptible to developing melanoma, but those with darker skin have a higher chance of the cancer spreading and therefore higher mortality rate, often as a result of delayed diagnosis.

Following up With Your Doctor

After taking your risk factors into account and performing a melanoma differential diagnosis, your doctor will decide whether to proceed with imaging tests or a biopsy of the area in question.

If it does prove to be melanoma, it is vital to determine the extent and determine if the melanoma has spread throughout the body. Sometimes the biopsy itself will have taken care of all the infected tissues. But if the melanoma has moved to the lymph nodes or other areas of the body, more aggressive treatment might be required.

Depending on the severity of the melanoma, treatments can include any or all of the following:

  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Prevention

Although melanoma might be a frightening prospect, there are ways that you can protect yourself. You can decrease your risk of developing melanoma by 50% with daily use of sunscreen SPF 15 or higher.

Or invest in clothing with UPF protection. At BloqUV we pride ourselves on creating high-quality, sun-protected clothing and accessories for the whole family. Our BloqTek fabric has a UPF of 50+ and blocks 98% of UVA/UVB rays.

Even leading physicians and dermatologists can't get enough.

“With 9,500 people diagnosed every day, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Creating a physical barrier against the sun is the most effective form of protection, and by choosing clothing with a high UPF rating the skin is protected from harmful UVA and UVB. I like that BloqUV is comfortable and durable whether I’m relaxing at the pool, doing yoga, or on a hike!”

-Dr. Sue Ellen Cox

Stay Sun Savvy

As temperatures continue to increase and you find yourself spending more time outside, rest easy knowing that you are taking the appropriate precautions for your health.

If you notice any strange skin lesions, use the ABCDE method or see your doctor for a melanoma differential diagnosis. Always make sure you apply sunscreen before heading out and utilize clothing with sun protection. These practices will help keep you healthy and happy for years to come.

Get yourself ready for summer with our UPF+50 active, leisure, and travel clothing and accessories.