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Lesser-known Facts About Melanoma | Dr. Lori Ramirez

  • Category: Dermatology
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  • Written By: Dr. Lori Ramirez
Lesser-known Facts About Melanoma | Dr. Lori Ramirez

Skin cancer is the most common cancer: One in five Americans will develop it by age 70 and your chance of catching it doubles if you’ve had more than five sunburns. Fortunately, there’s a very good survival rate if skin cancer is caught early.

But what are we looking for? Most people think melanoma looks like a dark mole, but that may not always be the case. Dermatologist Dr. Lori Ramirez shares four lesser-known facts about skin cancer to be aware of this Melanoma Awareness Month.

Melanoma is Not Always Black

Related: Download our Mole Check PDF

While it’s true that many melanomas are dark brown to black in color, some melanomas have no color and appear as pink spots or bumps. “Only about 30% of melanomas are found in existing moles. Beware of isolated pink, red or purple spots, especially if the spot looks different than the other marks on the skin,” says Dr. Ramirez. “Pay attention to any spot that has an uneven texture, shape, border, or distribution of colors. In addition, any spot on your skin that has changed in some way should prompt a visit for a skin check.”

Skin Cancer Can Look Like an Open Sore or a Growing Bump

Skin cancer areas may itch, bleed, or even hurt. But typically, they can be seen or felt long before they reach this point.

Basal cell carcinomas can appear as firm, pale or yellow areas, raised reddish patches, growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, or as open sores that don’t heal or heal then come back.

Squamous cell carcinomas can appear as rough or scaly red patches that might crust, raised lumps, oozing or crusted sores, or as wort-like growths.

Children Can Get Skin Cancer

Melanoma in children accounts for a tiny percentage of all new melanoma cases in the US: about 400 cases/year in kids and teens under age 20. Treatment for childhood melanoma is often delayed due to misdiagnosis of pigmented lesions, which occurs up to 40% of the time. “Get a second opinion if your child has an area of skin that is changing or a sore that isn't healing properly,” says Dr. Ramirez.

Where Does Melanoma Grow?

Melanomas can develop anywhere on the skin, but they are more likely to start on the trunk (chest and back) in men and on the legs in women. The neck and face are other common sites.

Having darkly pigmented skin lowers your risk of melanoma at these more common sites, but anyone can get melanoma on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under the nails---common sites for higher melanated people.


Dr. Lori Ramirez is a board-certified Dermatologist with fellowship training in Melanoma and a strong interest its prevention and detection. She encourages all patients to have annual skin checks, a preventative visit that is covered by insurance. During skin checks, a dermatologist will examine the patient’s skin for the presence of cancer. Learn more about skin checks here.