What is Melanoma and What are Melanoma symptoms?

Melanomas can appear on any part of the body. It most commonly appears on regions of the body that have been exposed to the sun, such as the back, legs, arms, and face.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma originates in the cells called melanocytes that create melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its colour. It is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Melanoma can also develop in the eyes and, in rare cases, inside the body, such as the nose or throat. Although the specific aetiology of all melanomas is unknown, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, tanning lights, and beds increases your risk of acquiring melanoma. Melanoma risk can be reduced by limiting your exposure to UV light. 

Melanoma risk appears to be rising in those under the age of 40, particularly among women. Knowing the signs and symptoms of skin cancer will help guarantee that malignant changes are discovered and treated before the disease spreads. Melanoma can be successfully treated if caught early.

Melanoma symptoms

Melanomas can appear on any part of the body. It most commonly appears on regions of the body that have been exposed to the sun, such as the back, legs, arms, and face. Melanomas can also develop in locations that aren't exposed to the sun, such as the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, and the beds of your fingernails. People with darker skin are more likely to have concealed melanomas.

The following are common melanoma signs and symptoms:

  1. A modification in a mole that already exists.
  2. A new pigmented or unusual-looking growth appears on your skin.

Melanoma isn't necessarily the result of a mole. It can also emerge on skin that appears to be normal. Normal moles are a consistent hue, such as tan, brown, or black, with a noticeable border that separates the mole from the surrounding skin. They're oval or round, and the diameter is usually less than a quarter-inch which is approximately 6 millimeters.

The majority of moles appear in childhood, and new moles can appear up to the age of 40. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles by the time they reach adulthood. Moles can change appearance over time, and some may even disappear as people get older.

What causes melanoma?

Melanoma develops when something goes wrong in the melanin-producing cells known as melanocytes, which give your skin its colour. Skin cells normally develop in a controlled and orderly manner, with healthy new cells pushing out older cells to the surface, where they die and fall off. 

However, when certain cells sustain DNA damage, new cells may proliferate uncontrollably, eventually becoming a mass of malignant cells. It's unclear what causes DNA damage in skin cells and how this leads to melanoma. 

Melanoma is most likely caused by a mix of factors, including environmental and hereditary factors. Despite this, experts believe that UV radiation from the sun, tanning lights, and beds is the most common cause of melanoma. All melanomas are not caused by UV light, especially those that develop in areas of your body that aren't exposed to sunshine. This suggests that there are other forces at play.

Factors that could increase the risk of melanoma include:

1. Fair skin

If you have less pigment or melanin in your skin, you will have less protection from harmful UV rays. You're more prone to acquire melanoma if you have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and freckles or sunburns easily than someone with a darker complexion. Melanoma can, however, develop in people with darker skin tones, such as Hispanics and black people.

2. Excessive UV exposure 

UV radiation, which is emitted by the sun as well as tanning lights and beds, can raise the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.

3. Having many moles or unusual moles 

Melanoma risk is elevated if you have more than 50 ordinary moles on your body. Melanoma risk is also increased if you have an odd type of mole. Dysplastic nevi, as they're known medically, are larger than usual moles with uneven borders and a variety of hues.

4. Weak immune system

Melanoma and other skin malignancies are more likely to occur in people who have compromised immune systems. If you take immune-suppressing medication, such as after an organ transplant, or if you have an immune-suppressing condition, such as AIDS, your immune system may be harmed.

5. History of melanoma within the family 

If a close relative like a parent or a child or a sibling has had melanoma, the risk of you getting affected would potentially increase too. 

Melanoma stages

There are six stages in Melanoma, such as:

  1. Stage 0 Melanoma
  2. Stage 1 Melanoma
  3. Stage 2 Melanoma
  4. Stage 3 Melanoma
  5. Stage 4 Melanoma
  6. Brain Metastases.

How fast does melanoma spread?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can potentially spread to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early. The speed at which melanoma spreads can vary from person to person and depends on various factors.

In general, early-stage melanomas that are localized to the skin and have not spread to other parts of the body (known as stage 0 or stage 1 melanomas) are typically slow-growing and may take several months or even years to spread. 

More advanced melanomas that have spread to other parts of the body (known as stage 4 melanomas) can spread more quickly, and the speed at which they spread can vary widely depending on individual factors. In some cases, melanoma can spread rapidly and aggressively, leading to serious complications and a poorer prognosis.

It is important to remember that early detection and treatment of melanoma are crucial for the best possible outcome. If you have concerns about any skin changes or abnormalities, it is important to see a dermatologist for a thorough evaluation.

Take Away

Melanoma can be prevented by avoiding exposure to sunlight during the middle of the day. One must always wear sunscreen throughout the day, even during the winter months. Also, avoid using tanning beds and lamps to prevent melanoma and wear protective clothing. However, it is always recommended to consult your healthcare professional for better advice and medical treatment.


Where does melanoma usually start?

Melanoma has no restrictions, it can be developed anywhere on the skin. However, the most common places of melanoma development are places where your skin gets sun exposure such as the face, arms, and back.

Is melanoma curable?

Melanoma is a potential skin cancer and has the highest risk of death. But, it can be treated, if found in the early stages.

Can melanoma be removed?

As mentioned above, it can be removed and it's highly possible only when it is detected on the early stages of development.


Treatment - Melanoma Skin Cancer. By NHS UK, Mar 6, 2023.

Melanoma. Now What? By American Academy of Dermatology Association, Oct 10, 2021. 

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