Melanoma is the most life-threatening form of skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation exposure causes this disease to develop in the melanocytes (pigment producing cells of the skin). Melanoma tends to develop later in life, however, it is almost always the after-effect of adolescent sun exposure.
Melanoma can appear anywhere on an individual’s body, but typically arises on the upper body of males and the lower legs of females. Melanoma can be life threatening, but if diagnosed early and treated promptly, the disease is treatable and curable.
Melanoma Risk Factors
Risk factors commonly associated with melanoma include:
- Number of Moles: People with 100 or more moles are more likely to develop melanoma.
- Family History: Most patients diagnosed with melanoma have a parent or sibling with the disease.
- Weakened Immune System: Melanoma often develops in people with a weakened immune system. Organ transplants and certain medications may result in a weakened immune system.
- Sun Exposure: Over exposure to the radioactive rays of the sun, especially during adolescence, is the leading cause of melanoma.
- Xeroderma Pigmentosum: This rare, heredity skin disease caused by a defect in the enzyme that repairs ultra-violet damaged DNA, may lead to melanoma development.
- Age: Melanoma is typically the aftereffect of adolescent sun exposure.
- Sex: Men are more likely than women to develop melanoma.
Melanoma Signs and Symptoms
The most common technique used to recognize the signs and symptoms of melanoma is the acronym ABCDE:
- Asymmetrical skin lesion
- Border of area is irregular
- Color varies from brown, to tan or pink (cracking, bleeding, and itching can also occu)
- Diameter of mole is greater than 6mm causing pain and sensitivity
- Evolution of mole is a sign of malignancy
Melanoma Outlook (Prognosis)
The prognosis of melanoma is almost always positive if a patient receives an early diagnosis and prompt treatment. It is also dependent on what stage the melanoma is in.
If Melanoma runs in a patient’s family line, it is advised to have annual skin examaminations. Self-examination is also effective. Taking progressive photographs of the mole will help a skin care physician analyze the groth’s behavior.
It is very important for everyone to wear quality sun screen with an SPF rating of 30 or more.