Some melanomas are flesh or pink in color; not always an “ugly black” or “scary brown.”

So how can we spot a pinkish-beige melanoma during self-exams of the skin?

“An amelanotic melanoma can appear pink or flesh colored and is very difficult to diagnose on clinical grounds alone,” says Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, MD, double board certified in dermatology and dermatopathology, and founder of Mudgil Dermatology in NY.

“In a high-risk individual, strong genetic history of melanoma and lots of sun damage, biopsying any new, flesh or pink colored bump is generally good practice.”

University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center scientists wanted to find out just how to spot an amelanotic melanoma.

A melanoma that’s described as being flesh colored or the same tone as one’s skin (which can have a pink tinge) is called an amelanotic melanoma because the “a” means the opposite of, and “melanotic” refers to pigment.

Due to the relative invisibility of amelanotic melanomas, they are more often diagnosed at advanced stages when compared to tumors in a brown or dark range of hues.

This means that this particular melanoma is associated with poorer survival rates.

Pink Colored Melanoma Facts

• Sometimes referred to as “invisible” melanoma. Technically it’s not invisible, of course, but because they’re difficult to spot during an exam, they’re called invisible.

• Two to eight percent of all melanomas are amelanotic.

• Most occur in white patients and start growing as pink — which can be a light pinkish-flesh color, a pinkish red and any shade in between.

• It can even escape detection by a dermatologist conducting a routine skin exam because its color makes its irregular borders and asymmetry more difficult to notice with the naked eye.

“We wanted to identify patients at higher risk for amelanotic melanoma in whom we need to look carefully for this cancer type,” says Nancy E. Thomas, MD, in the study report.

How to Detect Pink Melanoma: Study

The amelanotic melanomas of 178 patients were analyzed. People with certain traits were found to have a higher chance of having this pink tumor.

• Lack of moles on the back
• Many freckles
• Red hair, light eyes
• Inability to tan

People with red or strawberry blonde hair who cannot tan usually have the so-called peaches and cream complexion.

Blondes and even people with brown shades of hair may have this complexion as well.

This complexion has a vague pink tinge to it, and this pink gets more pronounced when the person has been in the sun without sun protection.

The more pronounced the “peaches” part of the complexion becomes, the harder it gets to detect an invisible melanoma, though again, sometimes these tumors are a dark pink or reddish.

People with these traits need to be carefully screened by a dermatologist.

If you have these associated traits, make sure to give your skin a thorough visible sweep from head to toe on a monthly basis.

Dr. Mudgil treats infant to geriatric patients, and is versed in all aspects of medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatology. He has published extensively in the medical literature plus has lectured at numerous national meetings.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. 

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