Alan Rockoff, MD
Dr. Rockoff received his undergraduate degree from Yeshiva College with the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His internship and two years of Pediatric residency were at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, followed by training in Dermatology at the combined residency program at Tufts and Boston Universities. Dr. Rockoff is certified by both the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.
Frederick Hecht, MD, FAAP, FACMG
Frederick Hecht, MD, lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dr. Hecht is a Pediatrician and Medical Geneticist and is certified by both the American Boards of Pediatrics and Medical Genetics. Dr. Hecht was born and raised in Baltimore and attended Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. and the Sorbonne at the University of Paris receiving his BA degree cum laude with distinction from Dartmouth.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- What does melanoma look like? What are the symptoms and signs?
- What if the skin changes are rapid or dramatic?
- What are the causes and risk factors for melanoma?
- How do I know my level of risk for melanoma?
- What are the types of melanoma?
- How is melanoma diagnosed?
- How do doctors determine the prognosis (outlook) of a melanoma?
- What is the treatment for melanoma?
- What methods are available to help prevent melanoma?
- What is in the future for melanoma?
- Melanoma At A Glance
- Additional Resources
- Skin Cancer (Melanoma) FAQs
- Find a local Oncologist in your town
What does melanoma look like? What are the symptoms and signs?
Guideline # 3: A changing spot may be a problem, but not every change is a problem. A mole may appear and then get bigger or become raised but still be only a mole.
Most public health information about melanoma stresses the so-called ABCDs:
- Asymmetry: One half of the mole is different from the other half.
- Border irregularity: The spot has borders which are not smooth and regular but uneven or notched.
- Color: The spot has several colors in an irregular pattern or is a very different color than the rest of your moles.
- Diameter: The spot is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
These guidelines are somewhat helpful, but the problem is that many normal moles are not completely symmetrical in their shape or color. This means that many spots, which seem to have one or more of the ABCDs, are in fact just ordinary moles and not melanomas. Additionally, some melanomas do not fit this description but may still be spotted by your dermatologist.
What if the skin changes are rapid or dramatic?
Guideline # 4: The more rapid and dramatic the change, the less serious the problem.
When changes such as pain, swelling, or even bleeding come on rapidly, within a day or two, they are likely to be caused by minor trauma, often a kind you don't remember (like scratching the spot in your sleep). If a spot changes rapidly and then goes back to the way it was within a couple of weeks, or falls off altogether, it is not likely to represent anything serious. Keep in mind that what may seem like the sudden appearance of a spot or a rapid change in its appearance may just mean that something (or someone) has prompted you to look at an old spot for the first time.
Nevertheless, this would be a good time to say once again: Nobody can diagnose him- or herself. If you see a spot that looks as though it is new or changing, show it to a doctor. When it comes to spots on the skin, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
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