Melanoma, the deadliest and most aggressive form of skin cancer, results in an estimated 10,000 deaths each year. Although it can sometimes be hard to spot, healthy habits and proper screenings can reduce your risk. Detection and early treatment is critical.\nIf you\u2019re concerned about a possible case of melanoma or have more questions regarding care and treatment, call UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-647-2811 to make an appointment. \nBasic Melanoma Facts: What You Need to Know\nAccording to Linda Robertson, DrPH, of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, melanoma is a cancer of pigment-producing skin cells. These cells reside deep within the skin, making the cancer hard to detect. Pigment gives skin its color, and it also gives color to moles. A mole can potentially be cancerous or noncancerous (benign). People with more moles are at higher risk for melanoma as are those with fair skin, freckles, light hair, and blue or green eyes. A family history of the disease and exposure to ultraviolet light also increase your risk.\n\u201cPeople often don\u2019t know that melanoma can appear under your fingernails or toenails, on the palms of your hands, and on the soles of your feet,\u201d says Dr. Robertson. \u201cIt can also occur in mucous membranes such as the vagina, anus, mouth, and nose. On rare occasions, there is melanoma of the eye.\u201d Once melanoma has taken hold, the cancer can spread to any part of the body.\nDiagnosis often begins with a biopsy, in which a small sample of the suspected melanoma is removed and sent to the lab for testing. Treatment depends on the size, location, and depth of the cancer, and if other tissue is involved. Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation are possible treatment options.\nMelanoma Symptoms and Warning Signs\nWhen you\u2019re watching for melanoma symptoms, Dr. Robertson says to remember your ABCDEs. Each letter stands for a characteristic of moles that can possibly indicate melanoma.\nABCDEs of melanoma\n\nAsymmetry: \u00a0\u201cIf you could fold a mole in half, those halves should be equal; they should look identical,\u201d says Dr. Robertson. If they\u2019re not, the mole could be cancerous.\nBorder: \u201cMelanomas tend to have an uneven border,\u201d she explains. A melanoma may be ragged and uneven.\nColor: Benign moles are often a single shade of brown, while melanomas tend to have various shades of brown and other colors.\nDiameter: Melanomas tend to be larger than noncancerous moles. If a mole gets larger or appears suddenly, it should be examined.\nEvolution: When a mole starts to change in any way, it\u2019s time to see a doctor. \u201cIt\u2019s important to know your body,\u201d she advises.\n\nMelanoma Prevention\nProtecting yourself from the sun is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of melanoma. It\u2019s important to use sunscreen throughout the year \u2014 not just during the summer.\nSo do you just slather on some SPF 100 before leaving the house? Here\u2019s Dr. Robertson\u2019s advice: \u201cSunscreen should be broad spectrum, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF, or sun protective factor, of at least 30. There is no need to go beyond SPF 50.\u201d Sunscreen with an SPF above 50 generally costs more without adding protection.\nKeep in mind that sunscreen is not once-and-done protection; reapplying it every two hours is crucial. \u201cIf you are sweating a lot, then you should apply it more often,\u201d advises Dr. Robertson. How much? \u201cYou\u2019ll need to use a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover your body.\u201d\nAnd be sure to avoid tanning beds. According to Dr. Robertson, just one session in a tanning bed increases your risk of melanoma by 75 percent.\nIf you\u2019re concerned about a possible case of melanoma or have more questions regarding care and treatment, call UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at 412-647-2811 to make an appointment. \nQuestions about full, in-network access to UPMC doctors and hospitals? Call our help line at 1-855-646-8762.