In the month of May is Melanoma Awareness Month. With a effort to promote awareness about a disease that effects people of all ages and gender. A study estimated that 1 in 27 men and 1 in 40 women will develop an invasive melanoma in their lifetime.
Melanoma is not the most common type of skin cancer, but it is the most serious because of how it spreads.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that arises when pigment-producing cells—known as melanocytes—mutate and become cancerous.
Most pigment cells are found in the skin and sometimes can be found in the eyes (ocular melanoma) and also other parts of the body, including, rarely, the intestines. It is rare in people with darker skin. In women, the legs are the most commonly effected. Other common areas are the neck and face.
According to the National Cancer Institute, about 87,110 new melanomas were expected to be diagnosed in 2017, and about 9,730 people were expected to die of melanoma.
What are the Types of Melanoma?
Lentigo Maligna Melanoma:
A less common type, and commonly affects older people, especially in parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun over several years. It usually grows slowly and it less dangerous than other types.
It is the second most common type, appearing on the torso, head, or neck. It usually grow faster than other types, turning red—rather than black—as it grows.
Acral Lentiginous Melanoma:
This type is the rarest kind of Melanoma. It typically appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under the nails. It is more likely in people with darker skin and isn’t linked to sun exposure.
Superficial Spreading Melanoma:
This is the most common, and it often appears on the trunk or limbs. The cells grow slowly at first, before spreading across the surface of the skin.
What causes Melanoma Cancer?
People with certain types of skin are more prone to developing Melanoma, these factors include:
- Pale skin that does not tan easily and burns, plus light-colored eyes
- Red or light-colored hair
- Age, as risk increases with age
- Family or personal history of melanoma
- Having an organ transplant
- High freckle density or tendency to develop freckles after sun exposure
- Great number of moles
- Five or more atypical moles
- Presence of Actinic Lentigines, small gray-brown spots, also known as liver spots, sun spots, or age spots
- Giant Congenital Melanocytic Nevus, brown skin marks that present at birth, also called birth marks
- High sun exposure, particularly if it produces blistering sunburn, and especially if sun exposure is intermittent rather than regular
Around 60,000 early deaths occur each year worldwide because of excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. An estimated 48,000 of these deaths are from Aalignant Melanoma.
Avoiding overexposure to the sun and preventing sunburn can significantly lower the risk of skin cancer. Tanning beds are also a source of damaging UV rays.
Symptoms of Melanoma Cancer
Early stages of Melanoma may be hard to detect, be sure to check the skin actively for signs of change.
These signs and symptoms includes:
- A spot or lump that looks shiny, smooth, or pale
- A hard red lump that bleeds or appears crusty
- A flat, red spot that is rough, or dry
- A skin sore thats hard to heal
- A spot or sore that becomes painful, or itchy, or bleeds
- Skin alters, such as a new spot or mole or a change in color, shape, or size
Averting from high exposure to ultraviolet radiation can reduce the risk of skin cancer.
- Avoiding sunburn
- Wear clothing that protect against the sun
- Using sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15, but preferably SPF 20-30, with 4- or 5-star UVA protection
- Broadly applying sunscreen about half an hour before going out, and applying it again after half an hour
- Reapplying every 2 hours and after swimming to maintain adequate protection
- Avoiding the highest sun intensity between 11 am and 3 pm by finding shade.
- Protecting children by keeping them in the shade, with clothing, and by applying SPF 50+ sunscreen
- Keeping infants out of direct sunlight
Sun exposure should be limited. People who work outdoors should take precautions to minimize sun exposure.
Doctors recommend minimizing or avoiding tanning booths, lamps, and sun beds.
If a physician suspects skin cancer, the patient will be referred to a cancer specialist and a biopsy will be arranged to test the lesion. A biopsy is a procedure where a sample of the lesion is taken for examination in the laboratory.
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Melanoma treatment (PDQ)-Health professional version. (2017, December 21). Retrieved from https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/hp/melanoma-treatment-pdq
Skin cancer. (2017, June 27). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/index.htm
Skin cancer (melanoma). (2017, January 5). NHS. Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/malignant-melanoma/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Types of melanoma. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/melanoma/understanding-cancer/melanoma-types.html
What does melanoma look like? (n.d.). Melanoma Research Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/resource-library/pictures-of-melanoma