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  • Skin Cancer Awareness: Get the Facts on Melanoma

    What Do You Know About Melanoma

    Our skin is very important, but did you know that it is also the body’s largest organ? Our skin helps to protect us from outside injury and infections, and it helps to regulate the temperature of the body at the same time. This organ simultaneously works to produce vitamin D and store excess water and fat for the body. Unfortunately, skin cancer has become all too common in the world today, but do you know which type is the most serious?

    The Most Deadly Type of Skin Cancer

    While it is the least common form of skin cancer, melanoma is also the most aggressive and deadly as well. This disease actually originates in the the pigment-producing cells that we like to call melanocytes. In many cases, melanoma can form from a mole that was already there. This disease can originate from any part on the body, including the soles of the feet, the palms of the hands, or even the skin underneath the fingernails. However, melanoma is most often found on the legs or the back.

    Identify the Symptoms of Melanoma

    It is very important that melanoma be diagnosed as soon as possible. Fortunately, you may be able to spot the initial signs of melanoma by performing a self-exam (if you know what to keep an eye out for…). In general, you should always take note of any new moles or growths on your skin, as well as any change in pre-existing moles. These could be signs of melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancers (like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma). Other red flags for skin cancer could be the appearance of skin lesions that begin to itch, change, bleed, or don’t eventually heal on their own.

    Currently, most people who are diagnosed with melanoma are over the age of 50, but this does not mean that younger people can’t develop melanoma too. In fact, cancer clinical studies have shown that the incidence of melanoma in young adults is significantly greater than many other types of cancer.

    How Do You Treat Melanoma?

    Our skin has two primary layers: the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and the inner layer of skin (dermis). The color-producing melanocytes are located deep within our outer layer of skin. Thus, melanoma can actually penetrate even deeper into the dermis, attacking blood vessels and lymph nodes alike. The first line of treatment for melanoma will be determined by how deep the tumor has grown, and if it has begun to metastasize to other areas of the patient’s body by the time it is diagnosed.

    Usually, the initial treatment of melanoma will involve surgery, which can cure most cases of thin or early-stage melanoma. On the other hand, additional surgical procedures could be necessary in order to be sure that all of the cancerous cells have been completely removed from the body. Following these procedures, a doctor will need to access the overall state of the patient. Additional cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, or other targeted therapies may be needed. Clinical investigators are also working to develop better ways of treating more advanced-stage melanoma that can’t be treated with surgery.

    Melanoma Doesn’t Just Develop on the Skin

    While many cases of melanoma can be spotted from the surface of the skin, this type of skin cancer can also develop other places as well. Melanoma that occurs in the skin is referred to as cutaneous melanoma, but this disease can also develop in the gastrointestinal tract, the mouth, the eyes, the anus, and elsewhere in the body. Skin cancer has become way too common, but you can prevent yourself from falling prey to this disease by taking the proper cautionary steps when spending longer periods of time outside and being vigilant of the signs of skin cancer.