Melanoma: A Serious Type of Skin Cancer

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What is Melanoma?
The most serious type of skin cancer is known as melanoma. It originates in the skin cells that make melanin, which gives skin its pigment and protects the deeper layers of skin from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. These cells are called melanocytes. The melanocytes produce more melanin and cause the skin to tan when time is spent in the sunlight. The melanocytes may start to grow abnormally and can become cancerous if the skin obtains too much ultraviolet light. This condition is commonly known as skin cancer or melanoma. The same effect occurs when the skin is exposed to other forms of ultraviolet light such as a tanning bed. According to Diffey’s article (2007) there have been several studies since the 1980’s that have examined the association of sunbed use with malignant melanoma and where case-control studies, particularly more recent ones, have generally found a positive association between the use of sunbeds and melanoma.

Where and What to Look For?
A change in the size, shape, or color of a mole is usually the first indicator of melanoma. However, melanoma is also capable of surfacing on the body as a new mole. It can appear anywhere on the skin, but in women, melanoma commonly appears on the lower legs. In men, it typically develops on the upper body, in the head and neck region, and between the shoulders and hips. People with darker skin may develop melanoma on the palms of the hands, under the fingernails or toenails, and on the soles of the feet. It is important to frequently perform skin self-examinations to check for new moles or changes in moles because these may be the most common places for melanomas to appear, but they can develop anywhere on the skins surface. The chances of recovery are immense with early diagnosis and treatment. Sun Exposure in Childhood

As you age the risk of acquiring melanoma increases, but the development of melanoma can happen at any age. One of the most common forms of cancer in young adults is melanoma. In Oliveria et al.’s (2006) article review conducted using Medline to identify articles linking sun exposure and melanoma the findings indicated an increased risk in individuals who spent their childhoods in sunny geographical locations. Being exposed early on in childhood can make you a higher risk when you get older. Chances of Recovery Are Good With Early Detection

More than 50,000 people in the U.S. discover that they have melanoma each year. It is an acute form of cancer and sometimes life-threatening. The odds of recovery are exceedingly good if the melanoma is found and treated in its early stages. However, if it is not detected early on it is capable of growing deeper into the skin and dispersing to other parts of the body. This is identified as metastasis. After melanoma has spread further than the skin to additional parts of the body it is arduous to treat. The Diagnosis of Melanoma

Melanomas are usually different in appearance from common moles. A skin self-examination is a preeminent way to uncover any suspicious moles located on the body. Any moles that have grown, changed color or shape should be reported to a doctor. The doctor will refer a dermatologist (a physician specializing in skin diseases) if the mole is irregular to perform a biopsy. The dermatologist will remove diminutive piece of the mole or the entire mole for a pathologist (a physician who examines biopsies to determine the cause of disease) to examine under a microscope for cancerous cells. If a mole proves to be melanoma the dermatologist can uncover more about the disease based on how thick the tumor is as well as how far it may have spread (as cited in Woodall at al., 2009). This is a process that is known as staging. Staging the melanoma is a crucial step because the selection of treatment has a large amount to do with the stage of the melanoma. A dermatologist or surgeon will remove the entire tumor as well as some surrounding skin to detect how thick it is....
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