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 increase 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.
Symptoms of Melanoma
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:
- A modification in a mole that already exists.
- 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 millimetres, roughly the size of a pencil eraser.
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.
Melanomas can also form in places of your body that receive little or no sunlight, such as the crevices between your toes and on your palms, soles, scalp, and genitals. These are known as "hidden melanomas" because they appear in places where most people would not think to look. Melanoma is more likely to develop in a hidden location in those with darker skin.
Hidden melanoma includes:
Melanoma beneath nails
Acral-lentiginous melanoma is an uncommon type of melanoma that develops beneath the fingernail or toenail. It's also on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. Individuals of Asian heritage, black people, and others with dark skin colour are more likely to have it.
- Melanoma in mouth, digestive tract, urinary tract or vagina
The mucous membrane that lines the nose, mouth, oesophagus, anus, urinary tract, and vagina forms mucosal melanoma. Mucosal melanomas are particularly difficult to spot since they can be confused for a variety of other, considerably more prevalent illnesses.
- Melanoma in eye
The most common site of eye melanoma, also known as ocular melanoma, is the uvea, which is the layer behind the white of the eye, also known as the clera. Melanoma in the eye can cause vision abnormalities and can be detected during an eye checkup.
Causes of 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:
- 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-coloured eyes, and freckle or sunburn easily than someone with a darker complexion. Melanoma can, however, develop in people with darker skin tones, such as Hispanics and black people.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.