Skin concerns are one of the top questions at the doctor’s office. But the most dreaded type of skin condition is melanoma; among the three main types of skin cancers, it is the only potentially life-threatening one. But with so many moles, rashes, and skin lumps and bumps, how can you tell when something is concerning? How can you tell if it’s something that potentially can wait, and when it's something to address with your doctor right away?

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a cancer of the skin cells that produce pigment, called “melanin,” that produces color in our skin. Melanoma tends to be less common in those with pigment in their skin—although still possible, of course. The cells go out of whack and overgrow, producing more pigment than they should. And sometimes they go overboard, producing abnormal cells in the process.

There are other types of skin cancers that are less concerning, mainly squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, which tend to be (thankfully) much more common than melanoma. However, melanoma is the most dreaded type of skin cancer because of its potential to be aggressive and metastasize (spread) to other organs, and hence be life threatening.


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