Superficial Spreading Melanoma: Know the Signs

Melanoma Facts

There are two types of melanomas: basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). Both forms of melanoma have similar characteristics but differ in their clinical presentation, prognosis, treatment options and survival rates. The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma which accounts for 90% of all cases. Bacterial infection or viral infection are the leading causes of this type of skin cancer.

The other 10% of cases are SCCs. These cancers are usually caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), Epstein Barr virus (EBV) or Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HPV is the most common cause of these types of skin cancer. EBV is one of the most common causes of SCCs. HSV-1 is responsible for only 2% of cases and its role in causing these tumors remains unclear.

Both types of melanoma are curable if caught early enough. Early detection and prompt treatment results in better outcomes than late stage disease. There is no cure for either type of melanoma. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or both. The faster the cancer is detected, the higher the survival rate.

It is important to note that survivors of skin cancer have a higher risk of developing a secondary cancer. People who have had skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinomas or other non-melanoma skin cancers in the affected area.

The types of Skin Cancers:

There are three main types of skin cancer: Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Melanomas and BCCs are the most serious of the three cancers, but all three can lead to disfigurement or death if not treated immediately. The best way to detect skin cancer in its earliest stages is by visiting your doctor for a skin exam on a regular basis. This, along with performing monthly self-exams, can help you catch the disease before it spreads to other parts of your body and becomes fatal.

Melanomas can be either superficial or invasive. Superficial Melanomas are more common and appear on the surface of the skin. They are usually black or brown, however they may appear to have different colors depending on the person. They are typically wider than they are deep. In addition, they grow slowly and tend to remain stable over long periods of time.

In most cases, superficial Melanomas do not spread to other parts of the body.

Invasive Melanomas are deeper than they are wide and often appear within an existing mole. They are more likely to spread to other parts of the body than superficial Melanomas. They are black or brown, but may also have different colors present in them. In addition, they tend to grow and change more quickly than superficial Melanomas do. If you notice irregular change in the color, shape or size of an existing mole, seek medical attention immediately.

Both forms of Melanomas can be cured if detected in the early stages. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Melanoma can help save your life. Any concerns about a suspected skin growth should be brought up during your next visit to your doctor.

What is a Basal Cell Carcinoma?

A Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 75% of all cases. They tend to grow slowly and in an irregular manner. They can spread to other parts of the body and invade surrounding tissues, but rarely spread to other parts of the body. Basal Cell Carcinomas are not discriminate; they do not target a specific group or race and can occur in any part of the body that is exposed to sunlight.

Sources & references used in this article:

Association of skin examination behaviors and thinner nodular vs superficial spreading melanoma at diagnosis by C Dessinioti, AC Geller, A Stergiopoulou… – JAMA …, 2018 –

Melanocytic nevi in histologic association with primary cutaneous melanoma of superficial spreading and nodular types: effect of tumor thickness. by RW Sagebiel – Journal of investigative dermatology, 1993 –

Skin markings in malignant melanoma by EE Bondi, DE Elder, D Guerry, WH Clark – JAMA, 1983 –

The pattern of the mononuclear infiltrate as a prognostic parameter in flat superficial spreading melanomas by JM Elwood, RP Gallagher – Pigment Cell, 1988

Spotting sinister spots: a challenge to dermatologists to examine every new patient at increased risk for signs of early melanoma by EB Bröcker, G Kolde, D Steinhausen, A Peters… – Journal of cancer …, 1984 – Springer

Association of Skin Examination Behaviors and Thinner Nodular vs Superficial Spreading Melanoma at Diagnosis by JB Howell – Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1986 – Elsevier

Acral, superficial spreading melanoma arising on melanocytic nevus in a pregnant woman: A case report with review by E Baltas, JE Mayer, TM Johnson, J Talaganis… –

Early detection of thick melanomas in the United States: beware of the nodular subtype by SK Gupta, A Kumar, V Gupta… – Indian journal of …, 2015 –