Published: Jan. 10, 2007
Updated: Feb. 27, 2012
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, responsible for the majority of all skin cancer deaths. More than 70,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed this year.
Fortunately, these cancers are usually curable if detected early. Patients diagnosed in the earliest stage of melanoma have a 90-plus percent survival rate at five years, while those diagnosed at the most advanced stage have a 20 to 30 percent survival rate.
Early detection is not always easy. Of all the moles in the United States, only one in 20,000 to 200,000 is a melanoma, so searching for an early-stage melanoma is a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The commonly recommended "ABCD" detection technique -- looking for moles that are asymmetrical, have an irregular border, have uneven color, or a diameter larger than a pencil eraser -- is quite helpful in detecting advanced melanomas, but to catch these cancers earlier, it's important to take additional steps.