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Melanoma is the least common but most feared of the skin cancers. It rarely produces problems locally as do BCC and SCC, but works its destruction through spread to distant organs ("metastasis.)" Melanomas are in part so dangerous because of their "innocent" appearance an behavior. They are often mistaken for benign "moles" and may remain neglected until an early, curable form of the disease has become more invasive and has spread.

Most melanomas probably develop in normal skin, but some are known to arise from previously benign pigmented lesions. "Congenital" moles ( those present from birth), and "dysplastic" moles, (moles with larger than typical size and varied color and outline), are known to occasionally degenerate into melanoma.

A congenital mole on the face of a young girl.

A melanoma developing in a"dysplastic" mole.

Melanomas present in many locations and patterns:

"Superficial spreading" melanoma - a flat, irregular plaque of pigment usually greater than one cm in size. This is the most common form of melanoma.

"Lentigo maligna" melanoma - melanoma arising in a large plaque of pigment known as a lentigo maligna ( or "Hutchinson's freckle") on the face of an elderly person. These tend to be the most benign behaving of the melanomas.

"Acral lentiginous" melanoma - melanomas on the feet, hands, fingers, or toes. These are less common but behave aggressively.

"Nodular" melanoma - melanomas which present rapidl;y as firm, black, nodules. These are very aggressive and metastasize rapidly.

A "superficial spreading" melanoma.

A "Hutchinson's Freckle" with early melanoma at its center.

"Acral lentiginous" melanoma on the heel of the foot.

"Nodular" melanoma.