What you should know about melanoma
According to the World Health Organization, 60,000 early deaths occur as result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun while about 48,000 of the 60,000 early deaths are due to malignant melanoma.
Melanoma is the type of skin cancer that originates from pigment containing cells of the skin known as the melanocytes that mutate and become cancerous. It is one of the deadliest and most common forms of skin cancer, it manifests primarily on the skin and easily spreads.
However, on rare conditions it can manifest in the mouth, intestines or eye. Also, the manifestation of melanoma varies with sex, it occurs majorly on the legs of women, while for men it occurs on the back
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Melanoma is primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds that result in a damage to the DNA. Tanning beds are carcinogenic to humans hence people who use tanning devices are prone to develop melanoma.
Genetics is also a major risk factor of melanoma as some rare genes have a relatively high risk of causing melanoma.
Other risk factors of melanoma include;
- Organ transplant
- Age; risk of melanoma increases with age
- People with certain skin types such as; those with birth marks, pale skin, and those with high tendency to develop freckles.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma
Early detection of melanoma can enable quick and complete resolve of the cancerous cells. However, at early stage it’s usually difficult to detect melanoma. Hence, the skin should be monitored regularly for changes.
The signs of melanoma vary with different stages as changes to the shape, color, itching or bleeding of an existing mole is visually observed using the ABCDE mnemonics.
- Asymmetrical skin lesion
- Borders of the lesion is irregular
- Color (Multiple colored)
- Diameter of the mole usually greater than 6mm
- Evolving or enlarging
The following signs are also indications of melanoma;
- A skin sore that refuses to heal
- Painful, itchy or bleeding sores
- Bleeding or ulcerated lumps
- Shiny, waxy and smooth lump
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TYPES OF MELANOMA
- Superficially spreading melanoma: In this type, cells of the skin grow slowly before spreading across the surface, it occurs majorly on the trunk or limbs.
- Nodular melanoma: This appears on the head, trunk or neck. It is fast growing and forms red patches as it grows.
- Lentigo malign melanoma: It is less malignant than other melanomas and it is more common among the elderly
- Acral lentignous melanoma: This type of mesothelioma is the least common and it almost exclusive to blacks. The tumors present on the thick skin of the palm and feet or under the nails.
Diagnosis of melanoma is by tissue biopsy of the affected skin, however visual inspection is the most common diagnostic technique in which the ABCDE mnemonic is used to examine the moles formed on the skin for changes in size, shape, color, itching or bleeding.
Related : New Horizons in Mesothelioma Treatment
Prevention and Treatment
- Avoid sun radiation by wearing protective clothing.
- Use of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) not less than 15.
- Protect infants from direct sunlight
- Avoid high intensity sun radiation especially between hours of 11am and 3pm.
The treatment of melanoma follows similar pattern as the treatment of other cancers. Some of the treatments include;
- Surgery; complete removal of the skin lesion and some surrounding skin.
- Biological therapy or cancer immunotherapy.
Like every other type of cancer, early detection is key if an affected person is to come out of the war alive. It is important to go for regular checkups especially if you have any of the risk factors listed above.