Melanoma is one of the most dreaded skin cancers. Though it is not the most common type of skin cancer, it is the most common cause of death from skin disease. It starts in melanocytes. Melanocytes are the pigment making cells in our body. It can start in any part of the patient’s body. It commonly affects the arms, legs and trunk. It can also affect colored part of eye and this spread is called eye melanoma. It can be treated easily if detected in early stages. Its symptoms are a mole, freckle, or spot that changes color, size and shape.

Types of Melanoma

Melanoma is primarily of four types.

  • Superficial Spreading Melanoma-

    It is flat and irregular mole with shades of black and brown color. It mostly affects people of Caucasians origin.

  • Nodular Melanoma-

    It is node like raised area with dark blackish-blue or bluish-red color.

  • Lentigo Maligna Melanoma-

    It mostly affects sun-damaged skin on the face, neck, and arms. It is large, flat, and tan or brown patches primarily found in old people.

  • AcralLentiginousMelanoma-

    It develops in palms, soles, or under the nails. It is a rare disease, more common in people with African Americans origin.

Melanoma could affect mouth, iris of the eye, or retina in rare cases. They may rarely develop in the vagina, oesophagus, anus, urinary tract, and small intestine.

Causes and Risk Factors of Melanoma

Melanoma occurs due to transformation of melanocytes cells, which are responsible for production of melanin pigment in the skin. Melanin gives color to skin and hair. It may start as mole. Dysplastic nevi, an irregularly shaped large mole with fading borders and mixed colors can turn into Melanoma within an existing nevus or on an area of skin. The primary cause of Melanoma is over exposure to sun or ultra violet rays, as is for other types of skin cancers. Some of the risk factors, which could increase risk of developing this disease, are listed below.

  • Elderly people are at higher risk of developing this disease, though young people can also fall prey to it.
  • People with fair skin, blue or green eyes, or red or blond hair are more likely to develop this disease if exposed to sun or ultraviolet rays for long periods.
  • People residing in places with sunny climates or high altitudes are also at higher risk.
  • People who are exposed to strong sunlight for longer periods are more likely to develop this disease.
  • Those who had blistering sunburns during childhood are more prone to this disease.
  • Use of tanning booths or tanning devices also increases risk of this disease.
  • A family history of Melanoma, also increases risk of developing it.
  • People with atypical dysplastic moles or multiple birthmarks are at higher risk of this disease.
  • Weak immune system could also lead to this disease.

Symptoms of Melanoma

  • Melanoma can be identified with a mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin.
  • A bleeding and growing sore, which changes color may also be Melanoma.
  • Asymmetrical and irregular growths on skin could be Melanoma.
  • A patch on skin, which changes color from one area to another, with shades of tan, brown, or black, white, red, or blue may also be a sign of Melanoma.
  • A large patch, sore or mole can be Melanoma.
  • Moles, which appearance changes frequently can be Melanoma.

Diagnosis of Melanoma

The first step in diagnosing Melanoma is physical examination of the patient. Doctor may check shape, color, and texture of the affected area. If he suspects that affected area may be cancerous, he may advice for biopsy. A part of skin is scrapped and examined in the lab in this method. A sentinel lymph node (SLN) biopsy is also done to check, whether it has spread to the lymph nodes. Imaging tests such as CT scan, X-ray and MRI are done to find the type and stage of Melanoma.

Prevention and Treatment Of Melanoma