Acral lentiginous melanoma is a form of skin cancer that occurs on areas of the body where hair does not grow.
It is most often seen on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, or in the mucus in a person’s mouth.
Acral lentiginous melanoma is one of the few forms of skin cancer not attributed to sun exposure. It is seen more frequently in Asian and African American ethnic groups and in people over age 60; however, it can occur in anyone at any age.
While there are few symptoms people should look for a change in the color of their skin, or a new color appearing on their skin, in the areas mentioned above. Dark areas appearing on the palms or soles are an indication that acral lentiginous melanoma might be present.
A biopsy is used to diagnose acral lentiginous melanoma and while there are several treatment types, surgery is the most common.
How does it work?
When found early enough surgery can effectively cure 95% of melanomas. It is when they have advanced too far or had the opportunity to spread to other parts of the body that they can be very dangerous to a person’s health. This is also true in the case of acral lentiginous melanoma. If the cancer has spread then surgery is combined with chemotherapy and radiation treatment. A lymph node dissection is often performed since this is one of the first places that the skin cancer will spread.
Surgery aims to remove all of the cancer cells along with a margin of healthy skin. If it is located under a finger or toenail, the entire nail will often be removed. If the area of skin to be removed is very large a skin graft may be needed to recover the area. A skin graft takes healthy skin from another part of the body and uses it to cover the part that was removed.
Besides surgery other types of treatment for acral lentiginous melanoma include gene therapy, anti-angiogenic chemotherapy, and biologic therapy.
Gene therapy – Gene therapy aims to use the patients DNA to combat the cancer
Anti-angiogenic chemotherapy – This treatment prevents the growth of new blood vessels and thus hopefully the spreading of the cancer
Biologic therapy – Biologic therapy uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. The hope is that there will be fewer bad side effects than with other treatments.
The side effects of acral lentiginous melanoma treatment vary based on type of treatment the patient is receiving. If the melanoma can be removed with surgery alone then the patient will most likely experience anesthesia and some pain or discomfort during recovery. If chemotherapy and radiation treatments are necessary side effects can include nausea, fatigue, and hair loss. Biologic therapy side effects are similar to flu symptoms – chills, aches, and pains.