Melanoma cancers are classified most frequently by their depth into the skin and the deeper layers of the skin. The pathologist reads the biopsy and measures the depth of the melanoma cancer cells under the microscope. There are several melanoma stages, an early melanoma is typically quite superficial. The hope is that people will recognize the early signs of melanoma, see their doctor, and have the lesion removed – and that the pathology report will reveal a melanoma that has not deeply invaded the skin. A melanoma that has not invaded into the deeper skin is called a “melanoma in situ.”
What is Melanoma?
Adults can get many different types of superficial skin lesions like warts, calluses, and keratoses. Melanomas originate from pigment cells and most frequently are colored with pigment. The pigment (melanin) is usually a very dark brown or black. Sometimes melanomas can have a mix of colors including blue, gray, and red. Melanomas that have no pigment may just be red and are called “amelanotic melanomas.” The key to identifying a melanoma early is looking for moles that change, or recognizing a new mole that is either black, irregular in shape, or asymmetrical from side to side. Early melanomas do not need to be large. A black mole that is smaller in diameter than a pencil eraser can still be a melanoma. Beware of black lesions on your skin, or new spots with multiple colors, or lesions that newly itch or bleed.