Though most types of the skin lesions known as melanomas appear dark and are easily noticeable, amelanotic melanomas are free of dark pigmentation. Like any other type of melanoma, they are cancerous. Many different types of melanoma may appear amelanotic. The prognosis and treatment for amelanotic melanoma is similar to that of most other types of melanoma.
Amelanotic melanomas appear as lesions with little to no pigmentation but with a lightly pigmented border. These lesions may look white, pinkish, or reddish, and are generally scar-like in appearance. Most melanomas are pigmented due to a chemical called melanin, produced by melanocyte cells. Melanin protects skin from the sun and causes dark skin coloration. For reasons not yet known, amelanotic melanomas are completely devoid of melanin.
Due to the lack of dark color normally present in most types of melanomas, amelanotic melanoma is at risk of going unnoticed for a long period of time. It often goes undiagnosed until increasing in size, or until the area begins to bleed and itch profusely. Because of all of this, and as a result of frequent misdiagnosis, amelanotic melanomas tend to be quite advanced when finally diagnosed. This type of melanoma accounts for fewer than five percent of all diagnoses.
Many different types of melanoma may be described as amelanotic, including desmoplastic melanoma. This particular type of amelanotic melanoma often appears under the fingernails or toenails, though may also be present on the head or neck as a prominent tumor. Desmoplastic melanoma is sometimes discovered after a patient undergoes cryotherapy, which is used for treating a serious condition known as lentigo meligna melanoma. The prognosis for desmoplastic melanoma is somewhat more unique than the prognosis of many other types of melanoma. For unknown reasons, the survival duration of patients with such lesions tends to be longer than that of other skin cancer sufferers.
If a lesion fitting the description of amelanotic melanoma appears on the skin, particularly if found next to a previously treated melanoma, it is recommended that a doctor is consulted immediately for an examination. If contracted, amelanotic melanoma may be treated in the same fashion as other melanoma types. Surgery tends to be difficult for these lesions, though it is an option, and chemotherapy may be necessary if such lesions advance to a cancerous stage. The greatest risk factors of any type of melanoma are sun exposure, light complexion, a family history of melanoma contraction, or a large number of moles, particularly if such moles are abnormally shaped.