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What is Melanoma

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Melanoma is a tumor of melanin-forming cells. The malignant tumor is associated with skin cancer. Malignant melanoma can be very difficult to treat but treatment and an early diagnosis will increase the survival rate. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. The cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA causes damage to skin cells triggering mutations. These mutations can lead to the skin cells multiplying rapidly which then forms the malignant tumors. Melanoma is caused by intense UV exposure that leads to sunburn. Some people have a higher chance of getting this cancer if people in your family have a history of it. Melanoma kills about 8,790 people in the United States every year.

You should examine your skin from head to toe every couple of months. If you find an abnormal growth you should show your dermatologist. If you recognize and treat the melanoma early it is almost always curable. If you do not recognize it early the cancer could spread to other parts of the body and can become harder to treat and sometimes fatal. Some of the general warning signs for skin cancer would be any change in size, color, shape, or texture of a mole or other skin growth and also an open or inflamed skin wound that won’t heal. A few symptoms of melanoma could be a small, dark, multi-colored spot that has irregular borders. The mole could be either elevated or flat. It can also bleed and form a scab. The mole may also have a cluster of shiny firm dark bumps.

There are four types of Melanoma: Superficial spreading melanoma, Lentigo maligna, Acral lentiginous melanoma, and Nodular melanoma. Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type, almost 70% of all melanoma cases are this type. You see this mostly in young people. The melanoma grows on the top layer of the skin for a long time before it penetrates deeper. The first sign of this type is a flat or slightly raised discolored patch that has irregular borders.

Lentigo maligna is very similar to superficial spreading melanoma. This type is most commonly found on the elderly.  Acral lentiginous melanoma will also spread superficially before penetrating deeper. It usually appears as a black or brown discoloration under the nails or on the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. This type is most commonly found on dark-skinned people.

Nodular melanoma will appear as a black bump. It is most commonly found on elderly people and men’s scalp. This type is the most aggressive. The only way to diagnose melanoma is a biopsy. The doctor will try and remove all of the growth, and then someone will examine the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. If you are diagnosed with melanoma then the doctor will want to see what stage you are in. In stage 0 the melanoma cells are only on the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). In stage 1 the epidermis may appear scraped or the tumor is between one and two millimeters. In stage 2 the tumor is 2 or more millimeters thick. In stage 3 the melanoma cells have spread to nearby tissues and possibly to one or more lymph nodes. In stage 4 the melanoma cells have spread to other organs, lymph nodes, or areas of skin far away from the original tumor. The cancer can also come back after being treated either in the same area or a different area of the body.

To treat melanoma you can have surgery, biological therapy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. You can use a combination of treatments as well. But if you want to prevent this whole thing altogether there are steps you can take to prevent melanoma. A few are to not get sunburned, avoid tanning and UV tanning booths, always use sunscreen, keep newborns out of the sun, examine your skin, and most importantly see your physician every year for professional skin exams.




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