Cutaneous malignant melanoma: a primary care perspective.


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Abstract

Cutaneous malignant melanoma accounts for 3 to 5 percent of all skin cancers and is responsible for approximately 75 percent of all deaths from skin cancer. Persons with an increased number of moles, dysplastic (also called atypical) nevi, or a family history of the disease are at increased risk compared with the general population. An important tool to assist in the evaluation of potential melanomas for patients and health care professionals is the ABCDE mnemonic, which takes into account asymmetry, border irregularities, color variation, diameter, and evolution. Any suspicious pigmented lesion should be biopsied. Appropriate methods of biopsy can vary, and include deep shave, punch, and excisional biopsy. Regardless of the procedure selected, it is essential that the size of the specimen be adequate to determine the histologic depth of lesion penetration, which is known as the Breslow depth. The Breslow depth is the most important prognostic parameter in evaluating the primary tumor. Because early detection and treatment can lead to identification of thinner lesions, which may increase survival, it is critical that physicians be comfortable with evaluating suspicious pigmented lesions and providing treatment or referral as necessary.

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