What is melanoma?
The most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma, which develops in cells that make melanin (melanocytes), the pigment that gives skin its colour. It can appear in the eyes and, rarely, inside the body, including the nose or throat.
The exact cause of all melanomas is unclear, but exposure to sunlight or tanning lamps and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from beds increases the risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to ultraviolet radiation can reduce your risk of melanoma.
Types of melanoma
Superficial spreading melanoma
- Nodular melanoma
- Lentigo maligna melanoma
- Acral lentiginous melanoma
Rare skin melanomas
- Eye Melanoma
- Mucosal Melanoma
Causes of melanoma
It develops when cells in the skin called melanocytes to mutate and start growing out of control. Unlike the more common skin cancers, It can be found in parts of the body that are generally not exposed to the sun, such as the groin or armpits.
While the exact cause of melanoma may not be known, many factors increase the risk of developing the disease. The main risk factor for is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, including sunlight and tanning beds, which increase the risk of exposure. Early exposure also increases the risk of this disease, especially in those who suffer frequent sunburns in childhood.
UV exposure: It is an aggressive skin cancer that often resists drug treatment. When the melanocyte cells get cancer melanoma occurs. Unfortunately, It is becoming more common every year.
Studies have shown that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun increases your risk of getting this cancer, especially if you had sunburns during childhood.
Skin tone: Skin cancer is seen in people of any colour. Minimum or no signs of exposure to intense ultraviolet rays can also be victims.
Skin cancers diagnosed lately be deadly when the person has melanoma, a type of skin cancer that can spread quickly. Treatment will be easier if the condition is diagnosed at early stages. Skin cancers diagnosed early can be treated easily.
There’s also a lot you can do to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.
Moles: Most moles, brown spots, and growths are usually harmless, but this cannot be considered safe.
Any risk factor that increases a person’s chances of getting cancer. Although risk factors affect the development of cancer, most do not directly cause it. Some people with many risk factors never develop cancer, while others do not. Knowing your risk factors and talking to your doctor about them can help you make more informed decisions about your lifestyle and health care.
Sun exposure: Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer are caused due to Cumulative sun exposure, Severe blistering sunburns due to intense exposure, usually before age 18, can cause melanoma later in life. Repeated X-ray exposure, scars from burns or disease, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals are some of the other factors.
Indoor tanning: The relationship between indoor tanning and melanoma has been investigated in several case-control studies and some coordination studies, and recent meta-analyses have found that users of indoor toning devices have a 16% –20% higher risk for melanoma than non-users.
- Previous skin cancer
- Race or ethnicity
- The weakened or suppressed immune system
Symptoms of melanoma
The first sign of melanoma is usually a change in the appearance of a new or existing mole.
Common moles are usually round or oval, with a smooth margin, and are usually no more than 6mm in diameter.
But size is not a sign of melanoma. A healthy mole is larger than 6 mm in diameter, and a cancerous mole is smaller.
Signs to watch include a mole:
- Changing shape
- The colour is changing
- Itchy or sore
The ABCDE checklist can help you distinguish between a normal mole and a melanoma:
- Asymmetric: Melanomas usually have 2 very different parts and are irregular.
- Borderline: Melanomas often have a torn or unrecognized border
- Colours: Melanomas are usually a combination of 2 or more pigments
- Diameter: Most melanomas are usually more than 6 mm in diameter.
- Enlargement or height: A mole that changes in size over time is more likely to develop melanoma
It can appear anywhere on the body, but it is most often found on the back in men and on the legs in women.
It can develop under the nail, on the sole, in the mouth, or even in the genital area, although this type of this disease is very rare.
Family and/or personal history
Close blood relatives (not related by marriage) are parents, siblings, and children and are called first-degree relatives. In-laws, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents are second-degree relatives. About 10% of people with melanoma have a family history of the disease.
Familial melanoma is a genetic or inherited condition. This means that it can be hereditary. To date, 2 genes are mainly associated with familial melanoma; They are called CDKN2A and CDK4. A mutation in any of these genes increases a person’s risk of melanoma. However, mutations in these 2 genes make up only a small percentage of familial melanoma.
Treatment for melanoma
It is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, new treatment options improve the quality of life and increase the survival rate for patients with advanced melanoma.
If diagnosed, your treatment options will depend on the stage of the disease, the location of the tumour, and your general health. Options:
Surgical removal of melanoma
Surgery is often used to treat this disease. The approach used depends on several factors, including the size and location of cancer. Your focus of attention tells you about your specific focus. Here are some common surgical procedures used to treat this disease based on its specific stage and condition:
- Wide local excision: The melanoma is removed, as well as some of the normal-looking tissue. In some cases, a skin graft is used to close the wound. Grafting means using skin from another part of the body to close the wound.
- Mohs surgery: The melanoma lesion is removed. After the ulcer is removed, the layers of skin are removed and immediately examined under a microscope to check for cancer. If cancer cells do not appear, the surgeon will stop removing the membranes.
- Lymphadenitis: Removal of lymph nodes affected by this cancer. If it is spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, bones, or brain, other surgeries may be necessary. Your provider will talk to you about your specific situation.
Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment method that uses drugs to strengthen the immune system to detect and fight cancer. MSK is a pioneer in the development of immunotherapy. This approach is very effective in treating advanced melanoma.
There are many forms of immunotherapy. Immunotherapy drugs that are commonly used to treat this disease are called checkpoint inhibitors. Checkpoint inhibitors work by breaking down T cells (immune cells that seek out and destroy tumours). This treatment is sometimes called immune checkpoint blocking because the molecule that acts as a natural breakdown in T cells, the checkpoint, is blocked by the drug, causing the breakdown to be released.
Targeted therapy are drugs that inhibit the function of abnormal molecules in cancer tumour cells that control their growth. When molecules have certain genetic mutations, they send signals to cancer cells to grow and spread.
The goal of targeted therapy is to turn off mutated molecules to slow the growth of skin cancer cells without damaging healthy tissue.
Targeted therapy is systemic, which means that the drugs travel in your bloodstream to all parts of your body. Systemic cancer treatments fight cancers that have spread from their original location to other parts of the body.
Cells grow and divide very fast or never die. It causes faulty genes within cells. In targeted therapy, drugs follow the melanoma cells and stop the genes that make them out of control.
This treatment stops working well after a while. If that happens, you and your doctor should try another approach.
Radiation therapy involves the use of high-energy x-rays or other cells to kill cancer cells. External beam radiation therapy is one of the most common types of radiation therapy, in which rays are sent from outside the body on to the tumour.
The radiation beam produced by this machine is shown in different directions and can be prevented using special techniques to help reduce side effects. The radiation oncologist recommends a specific radiation therapy regimen or program with total treatments and radiation doses.
Ask your doctor to clearly explain the options that work best for you, including details about the benefits and risks.
Never intentionally expose your skin to the sun. The thing “healthy tan” doesn’t exist.
- Use sunscreen: Make sunscreen a daily habit. Ultraviolet radiation can damage the skin even in winter and cloudy days. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects from UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of at least 30. Learn more about sunscreen here.
- Wear protective clothing: Protect your body with sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Learn more about protective clothing here.
- Be away from the peak rays: When the sun’s rays are too intense, seek shade during the afternoon sun. Find out more about the UV index here.
- Do not use tanning beds: Indoor tanning may increase the chances of this cancer by 75%. It is one of the first three cancers diagnosed in young people (25-29 years), and scientists have attributed this trend to the use of sunbeds at this age, especially in young women.
- Protect the children: Children are especially vulnerable to damage from UV rays. A severe heatstroke in childhood or adolescence doubles the chances that your child will develop this disease later in life.
In addition to following these sun protection habits, learn how to spot melanoma in its early stages, when most of it can be treated, here.
Your treatment, and how you respond to it, depends on your position, stage, and type. This means that your post-treatment needs and problems will vary depending on your treatment process.
Some problems you may have after treatment:
- Lymphedema: Where the removal of lymph nodes disrupts the lymphatic system, leading to the fluid formation in the organs.
- Psychological and psychiatric problems such as depression and anxiety.
- Chronic side effects of treatment