Cutaneous melanoma is a malignant neoplasm of the melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells found in the basal layer of the epidermis which its main function is to produce the pigment melanin that is responsible for skin color. As one of the three major types of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma being the other two) melanoma remains the deadliest, causing the vast majority of the skin cancer-related deaths although it only accounts for approximately 5% of the skin cancer cases.
There are four major forms of melanoma being: superficial spreading, nodular, lentigo maligna, and acral lentiginous melanomas. superficial spreading form remains the most common and accounts for about 70% of melanomas. Studies have shown that the major risk factor for melanoma development is exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) radiation as UV radiation frequently leads to DNA mutations. Another risk factor is the melanocytic nevus (colloquially known as mole or birthmark) nevi are benign lesions composed of clusters of melanocytes. This leads to a dark pigmented spot on the skin due to the large amount of melanin production.
Clinicians assess lesions based on the “ABCDE rule” that is meant to indicate A: asymmetry, B: irregular border, C: color variations, D: diameter >6 mm, and E: elevated surface in order to diagnose malignant melanoma.
Written by: Bayan Alhazmi, Medical Student