Melanoma is a form of cancer that develops in specific cells of the skin. Those cells are called melanocytes. These specialized cells are responsible for the coloring of your skin. They produce pigments that create your unique skin-tone. This type of cancer can form in many different areas of your body. It isn’t limited to your outer-skin either. Melanoma can occur in organs, and can even occur on the sensitive skin of your eyes.
Ultraviolet light exposure greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancers.You can be exposed to UV rays from the sun and tanning beds. There’s no definitive answer for what causes melanoma to form, but you are definitely more susceptible to skin cancers when you don’t take preventative measures. It’s best to avoid extended exposure to harmful light radiation. Always wear protective sunblock when tanning.
Women under 40 years old have a significantly increased risk. Educating yourself to look for the common red-flags of melanoma can save your life. If skin cancer is treated in its early stages, then you’ll have a very high chance of avoiding serious health problems.
Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers are most common on your limbs and face. That’s because those spots are more likely to suffer damages from harsh sunlight. The most common misconception about skin cancer is that it only occurs in those areas, but skin cancers can occur anywhere on your body.
Certain areas are often overlooked. Melanomas on the hands and feet are extremely problematic because they go unnoticed. You can even develop skin cancers underneath your fingernails too.These hidden cancers are more common in people with dark skin tones.
Initial Signs Of Melanoma
• Noticeable Differences In The Appearance Of A Mole
• New Blemishes And Growths
• Odd Pigmentation In Your Skin
There’s nothing unusual about having moles. The average person will have 10 to 50 moles develop in their lifetime. What you need to look out for are moles that don’t fall within the normal guidelines. Uniform coloring is a good sign that you don’t have skin cancer. Moles that are a solid brown or black color are normal.
They should also be no larger than a quarter of an inch in width. It should have an overall oval or round shape. Most moles will develop around the age of 50, but some may even disappear over your lifetime.
Melanoma Characteristics In Moles
Look out for the main warning signs of Melanoma with this easy Acronym.
• Asymmetry: Half of your mole is completely different than the rest of it.
• Border: An oddly shaped or scalloped border that is lacking definition.
• Coloring: Your mole has multiple shades or tones.
• Diameter: Melanomas are often larger than the thickness of a pencil eraser.
• Evolving: Your mole has changed or grown dramatically over time.
• Acral-Lentiginous Melanoma: This rare melanoma occurs under nails. It can develop under toenails, fingernails, palms, and the soles of your feet. Individuals with darker skin tones are at a higher risk for developing this type of cancer.
• Mucosal Melanoma: This form of cancer occurs in the mucus membranes of the body. It’s most common in the mouth, urinary tract, vagina, anus, and esophagus. It is extremely hard to diagnose due to the locations it develops in.
• Ocular Melanoma: This type of melanoma occurs in the skin located behind the white of your eye. It can cause drastic vision changes, and it is most commonly diagnosed during eye examinations for glasses and contact lenses.
What Causes Melanoma?
Melanocyte cells in your skin produce melanin which gives your skin its coloration and tone. Melanoma forms when those melanocytes fail to die, and they are not replaced by newer skin cells.
The DNA in those melanocytes are damaged in some way. They begin to grow out of control, and they form a growth of cancer. It’s not precisely known what really causes the DNA in skin cells to become damaged. Research does show that your genes and environment have an effect on your chances of developing melanoma. It is estimated that UV light from the sun and tanning beds are the main source of DNA damage that leads to skin cancer.
UV light doesn’t explain skin cancers that are hidden inside the body. It also isn’t much of a factor in melanomas that occur on covered areas on the body that aren’t exposed to light very often. That means that there must be some other unknown-contributor to those uncommon forms of melanoma.
High Risk Factors In Individuals
• Light-Sensitive Skin: If you have fair skin, then your body doesn’t produce very much melanin. Your body isn’t protected very well from sunburn. That puts you at a much higher risk of damaging your skin cells through UV light exposure from sunlight. This is especially harmful if you experience frequent sunburn with blistering.
• Environment; You can be at a higher risk for skin cancer depending on where you live. Someone who spends most of their time close to the equator will tend to have an enormous amount of UV light exposure in their lifetime. The same goes for people who live at very high altitudes because of lessened protection from the atmosphere. Any excessive UV radiation over long period of time will play a role in the forming of cancer cells.
• Numerous Moles Or Unusual Moles: If you have more than the average number of moles on your body, then you are more likely to develop skin cancers. This is particularly true if you suffer from Dysplastic-Nevi moles. They are typically misshapen with unusual characteristics.
• Health And Genetics: Your immune system is your body’s main defense against cancers. If you suffer from an immune deficiency, then you could be more at risk for developing melanoma. A family history of melanoma can also be a good indicator that you may develop it at some point in your life.
Treatment Stages And Strategies
Early-stage melanoma treatments typically include removing the suspected melanoma completely during biopsy with no further steps. If the melanoma is considered larger than normal, then your doctor may take extra safety measures when removing it. Your physician may remove some surrounding skin, and they may remove some underlying tissue as well.
• Chemotherapy: This cancer-killing drug treatment can be taken intravenously, or it can be taken through the form of a pill. Isolated limb perfusion is probably the easiest form of chemotherapy for melanoma located in the limbs. The drug is injected into a limb that has it’s circulation reduced by a tourniquet. This allows the treatment to target specific areas. It also helps decrease the negative side effects of chemotherapy.
• Removal Of Lymph Nodes: If there are any lymph nodes that the cancer has spread to, then your doctor will most likely remove those lymph nodes surgically.
• Radiation: This therapy usually consists of powerful X-rays that are targeted to destroy cancer cells after a surgery. It is a safety-measure to ensure that any melanoma that may still be active after other treatments will be diminished before it spreads again. This is also the typically follow-up treatment to lymph node surgery. If you have your lypoh nodes removed due to the spread of cancer, then you will probably be recommended for radiation therapy afterwards.
• Biological Immunotherapy: This form of cancer treatment relies on improving your body’s natural mechanisms to destroy cancerous cells. This can include natural substances that occur in the body, and it can also consist of man-made compounds produced in a laboratory setting. Side effects are typically limited to fatigue, flu-like symptoms, headaches, and muscle pains.
• Targeted Cell Therapy: These medications are a category of treatment that target vulnerabilities found in specific types of cancer cells. It focuses on weaknesses that certain strains of cancer naturally develop. The common symptoms of this treatment are skin issues, dehydration, and chills.
Reduce Your Chances And Risks
The best step you can take to dramatically reduce your risks of developing melanoma is by avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight. Always use sunblock when you are tanning.
Keep in mind that a healthy immune system is your best defense against cancer. Improve your body’s natural cancer-fighting abilities through a healthy diet and daily exercise.
If you find a strange mole that doesn’t look normal, then don’t hesitate to get a professional opinion. Don’t be afraid to ask your physician to examine moles during a physical. Taking the necessary steps to identify skin cancer in its early stages can save your life.