Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It occurs in the skin cells which contain pigment known as melanocytes. Those cells are found in the lower part of the epidermis, or the outer layer of skin. Like many types of skin cancer, melanoma is most often caused by UV radiation. UV radiation is found in sunshine and tanning beds. The damage caused by UV radiation starts mutations within unrepaired skin cells that cause them to replicate very fast and form malignant tumors. There is also Melanoma In Situ, which affects only the outermost layer of the skin and is virtually 100% curable.
The first signs of melanoma come when you notice a new growth on normal skin or a pre-existing mole begins to change. These spots could start to grow and change colors. Most often, the growths will be black or brown, but they could also be pink, red, skin-colored, and even blue or white. If you think that you might have a cancerous spot or mole on your body, you should check for the ABC’s of melanoma:
A: Asymmetrical (irregular shape)
B: Irregular Border (scalloped edges)
C: Changes in Color
D: Diameter (larger than ¼ inch is considered possibly dangerous)
E: Evolving (moles that keep changing)
Anyone can get Melanoma, but fair-skinned, sun-sensitive people are at a higher risk. Since UV radiation from the sun is a major culprit, people who tan poorly or burn easily are at the greatest risk. In addition, other factors are genetics, a family history of melanoma (a blood relative), a history of sunburns, more than 50 moles, or a history of Atypical Moles
Studies show that women tend to develop Melanoma more often on their legs and men develop it more often on their backs. It is rare but possible for melanoma to develop in the mouth, intestines, or eye. When treated early, this type of skin cancer is easily cured. However, the longer treatment is put off, the harder the melanoma is to cure, and it may begin to systemically spread to other parts of the body.
Early detection is the best treatment. Regular complete skin examinations with a certified dermatologist and seeking an evaluation for any suspicious or changing moles. Eye exams with your ophthalmologist (especially if you have blue eyes, fair skin and red hair). Gynecology exams for women. Protecting yourself with sunglasses, hats, broad-spectrum sunscreens and absolutely avoid indoor tanning beds.