Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the melanocytes, the pigment cells present in the skin that produce melanin. This cancer is considered more serious than other types of skin cancer because of its tendency to spread to the other parts of the body causing serious complications, sometimes even death.
Most melanoma occurs in the skin, they may rarely occur in the mouth, intestine, or eyes. The most common melanoma occurs on the legs in women and on the back in men. Around 50,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, which results in 10,130 deaths every year in the US.
The melanoma marks are majorly black or brown but they can also be red, pink, or white. The cases of melanoma seem to be on an increase in women above 40. There were about 59,800 deaths due to melanoma in the year 2015 globally.
According to the National Cancer Society, melanoma is the result of severe, frequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunshine, especially in those with low levels of skin pigment. The sun or tanning devices may be the source of ultraviolet radiation. This exposure causes DNA damage to skin cells.
The skin cells double rapidly and form a malignant tumor. According to an estimate by WHO, around 60,000 deaths occur as a result of intense exposure to ultraviolet radiation. People with many moles have a higher risk of developing melanoma. That makes it important to know your skin very well so that you are able to detect any changes in the moles or in the skin of your body. The other risk factors include:
Family history of melanoma
Family history of basal cell carcinoma
Weak immune system
Melanoma: Signs & Symptoms
According to the doctors of Cleveland Clinic, melanoma can occur anywhere in the body which is more exposed to the sun but a few common spots include the back, legs, arms, and face. It can also occur on the spots that do not get exposed to sunlight like the soles of the feet, palms, and fingernails. The other common symptoms include:
Changes to the color or size of the existing moles
The appearance of a new lump on the skin
An itchy, painful, or bleeding spot
A spot or sore that is red, rough, flat, or dry
A lump that bleeds
A skin sore that refuses to heal
According to the UK NHS, a visual inspection can help diagnose a case of melanoma. The doctors closely observe and ask questions about the different variations of size, color, and shape of the moles.
Physicians examine moles using the ABCDE examination method, which is explained below:
Asymmetrical: Normal moles are round or symmetrical. A cancerous mole has one side looking different from the other side.
The border of the moles is irregular, ragged, or not smooth.
The Colour of different moles may be in the pigments of red, brown, white, blue, or black.
A biopsy can help detect if an abnormal skin lesion is cancerous or not with the help of a lab test.
Imaging tests allow the doctors to know if cancer has spread beyond the skin and can help prevent the spread as well.
According to the doctors of Mayo Clinic, the treatment for melanoma involves one or a few of the following options:
Surgery may be required to remove the melanoma lesion and sometimes the skin around it and then no treatment shall be required.
Lymph node surgery along with a few other treatments can help treat melanoma that has spread beyond the skin.
Immunotherapy helps your immune system fight cancer by interfering with the formation of the abnormal proteins that help the cancer cells hide from the attack of the antibodies.
Targeted therapy attacks the weakness of the cancer cells and destroy them.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill the cancer cells and inhibit their growth
Radiation therapy uses high spectrum X-rays to kill the cancer cells within the body