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ABCDE. Abbreviation used to help the public and health care providers identify and remember clinical features of melanoma.

actinic keratosis. A type of precancerous skin spot that is red in color, has scales, and is rough to the touch.

adjuvant therapy. Secondary treatment delivered to enhance the effectiveness of the primary treatment and help prevent recurrence of the disease.


atypical nevi. Moles that resemble melanoma in appearance. Another name for these moles is dysplastic nevi.


basal cell carcinoma. The most common type of skin cancer.


benign. Normal. Not cancerous.

biopsy. Taking a small piece of skin tissue for diagnosis by microscopic examination.


blood count. The number of red cells, white cells, and platelets in a blood sample.


board certified. Physicians who have completed a requirement specified by their specialty board.


Breslow thickness. Measurement of the depth of penetration by the tumor cells, taken from the very top of the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) to the deepest melanoma cells in the skin tissue.


cancer. A class of illnesses characterized by the proliferation of cells that invade and destroy normal surrounding tissue and have the potential to spread throughout the body.


CBC. Complete blood count. Measures the number of white blood cells (WBCs), red blood cells, and platelets.


cell. The basic unit of living organism.


centimeter (cm). A hundredth of a meter; about 4 tenths of an inch.


chemotherapy. Treatment with a class of drugs used to destroy cancer.


Clark’s level. A common way for pathologists to report the depth of melanoma invasion.


clinical trial. Medical study evaluating the efficacy of experimental drugs for treating cancer or other diseases.


confocal laser microscopy. An imaging method designed to examine the


cellular structures within skin tissue in a noninvasive fashion.


congenital mole. A mole that is found at birth. The size of a congenital mole can vary from a few millimeters to larger than 20 centimeters.


cryotherapy. Treatment that freezes benign or malignant skin lesions with liquid nitrogen.


CT scan. Computed tomography scan. A series of x-ray views of the body from different angles. The images are combined and reconstructed by computer and reviewed by a radiologist. Sometimes called a CAT (computerized axial tomography) scan.


cure rate. The percentage of patients with a disease who have been cured, as determined by statistical studies.


curettage. A method of treating skin cancer by scraping away the tumor cells.


dermatologist. A physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating skin problems.


dermis. The lower layer of the skin found immediately below the


epidermis (outermost) layer.


Dermatoscope (or dermoscope). A hand-held microscope-like device that allows physicians to see deeper layers of the skin in a noninvasive fashion.


DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Nucleic acid contains the genetic information of living organisms.


dysplastic nevi. See atypical nevi.


electrodessication. A method of treating benign or malignant skin lesions using high-energy electrical currents or heat.


epidermis. The outermost or uppermost layer of the skin, located above the dermis layer.


excisional biopsy. A surgical procedure in which a piece of tumor or skin tissue is removed. The specimen is examined under a microscope for diagnosis.


Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A division of the federal government that regulates the safety and efficacy of drugs.


freckles. Light brown pigmentations found on the skin.


gene. A strand of DNA molecules needed by cells to produce and encode proteins.


gene therapy. Treatment that targets gene mutations.


groin. The area of the body where the thigh meets the hip and abdomen.


high-risk melanoma. Aggressive or advanced stage of melanoma that has a high probability of coming back, or recurring.


immune system. The body’s defensive mechanism for combatting illness. It is an elaborate system composed of different types of immune cells that work together to identify, seek, and destroy viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells.


immunosuppression. A condition, caused by illness or certain therapies, in which the effectiveness of a person’s immune system is reduced.


immunotherapy. A type of cancer treatment that boosts the body’s


immune system to destroy cancer.


in situ. Latin for “in place,” in this case meaning “in the original place.”

Used in reference to a skin cancer that is restricted to the epidermis, the first layer of the skin.


intravenous (IV). Into a vein. Usually describes medicine being delivered through the bloodstream.


lengito maligna. A type of melanoma in situ lesion.


lesion. Abnormal tissue found on or in the body. It can be either benign or malignant.


lymphedema. Swelling of the arm or leg due to an accumulation of

excess lymphatic fluid. The condition commonly occurs in patients who have had surgical procedures to remove lymph vessels or lymph nodes.


lymph nodes. Small bean-shaped immunologic structures (see immune system) connected to the lymphatic vessels, which are found throughout the body. They contain various immunologic cells (for example, T and B cells) and can become enlarged or painful when the body is fighting illnesses ranging from infection to cancers.


malignant. Cancerous. Malignant tumors or cells can destroy nearby

normal tissue and can spread to other parts of the body.


melanocytes. Specialized pigment-producing cells located in the bottom layer of the epidermis. Melanoma is derived from cancerous melanocytes.


melanoma. A type of skin cancer derived from cancerous melanocytes.


metastasis. The spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another part of the body via the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.


metastatic melanoma. Melanoma that has spread from the original site to other parts of the body, such as the bone, brain, liver or other parts of the skin.


Mitosis or mitotic rate. The multiplication of cells by division, the splitting of one cell into two cells. Mitotic rate is a measurement of the rate of cell division.


mole. A collection of melanocytes in the skin. A mole appears as a brown, black, or flesh-colored spot on the skin. Also called a nevus.


MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging, a medical imaging technique used to visualize internal structures of the body.


neurotropism. Presence of cancer cells in the nerve.


nevus (plural, nevi). See mole.


nodule. A type of growth found in the body.


oncologist. A physician who specializes in treating cancer.


pathologist. A physician who specializes in diagnosing diseases by examining tissues and cells under the microscope.


PET scan. Positron emission tomography. A nuclear imaging technology capable of detecting areas of the body that contain malignant cells.

photodynamic therapy. A method of treating benign or malignant skin lesions using a combination of light and chemicals.


plastic surgeon. A surgeon who specializes in restoring function and normal appearance to parts of the body altered by disease or by surgery (such as removal of cancerous lesions).


prognosis. A prediction of the probable outcome of a disease.


radiation oncologist. A physician who specializes in radiation treatment for cancer.


recurrence. The reappearance of a cancer or disease after a period of remission.


remission. Disappearance of a cancer or chronic illness.


resection. Surgical removal of tissue, such as a malignant tumor.


RNA. Ribonucleic acid is produced from DNA and is important in protein production.


sentinel lymph node. The first lymph node or nodes which malignant tumor cells reach when cancer spreads from its original site.


sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB). A surgical procedure to remove and examine the sentinel lymph node to determine if cancerous cells are present.


side effects. Secondary effects, sometimes harmful, of a drug or therapy that may occur in addition to the primary effect.


SPF. Sun protection factor. A standard for measuring the efficacy of sunscreen in protecting against (mainly) the UVB portion of solar radiation.


squamous cell carcinoma. A type of skin cancer.


sunscreen. A substance applied to the skin to block or reflect ultraviolet radiation from the sun.


survival rate. The percentage of patients with a particular disease who have survived after treatment, as determined by statistical studies.


targeted therapy. A type of cancer treatment that targets specific protein that drive the growth cancer cells.


tumor. An abnormal growth of tissue. A tumor can be either benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).


ulceration. Open area on the skin or in tissue where there is breakdown of the tissue.


ultrasound. An imaging procedure using sound waves to visualize soft

tissue and body cavities.


ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A spectrum of invisible rays from the sun or a sun lamp. UV radiation can cause skin cancer and can accelerate aging.

vitamin D. A fat soluble vitamin that helps strengthen bones and can be obtained from sun exposure, food sources, and vitamin supplements.

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