Malignant Melanoma - Symptoms & Treatment
Malignant Melanoma or Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of skin cells. Malignant melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer which usually starts in the skin, either in a mole or in normal-looking skin. It is completely curable when detected early, but can be fatal if allowed to progress and spread. Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes and, less frequently, of retinal pigment epithelial cells (of the eye , see uveal melanoma ). While it represents one of the rarer forms of skin cancer , melanoma underlies the majority of skin cancer-related deaths There are different types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common. Melanoma is less common, but more dangerous.
Symptoms of Malignant Melanoma
Melanoma is a malignancy of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) located predominantly in the skin, but also found in the eyes, ears, GI tract, leptomeninges, and oral and genital mucous membranes. The diagnosis of melanoma requires experience, as early stages may look identical to harmless moles or not have any color at all. Skin cancers may have many different appearances. They can be small, shiny, or waxy, scaly and rough, firm and red, crusty or bleeding, or have other features. Therefore, anything suspicious should be looked at by a physician. See the individual articles on specific skin cancers for more information. Here are some features to look for:
- Asymmetry: one half of the abnormal skin area is different than the other half
- Borders: irregular borders
- Color: varies from one area to another with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, blue)
- Diameter: usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in size (diameter of a pencil eraser)
Causes of Malignant Melanoma
Malignant melanoma is very rare in childhood.Several people who have melanoma. Therefore, it is possible that occasionally melanoma may be caused by an inherited faulty gene. However, children and young adults who are overexposed to the sun and have severe burning or blistering are at risk of developing melanoma in later life. The outer layer of skin, the epidermis, is made up of different types of cells. Skin cancers are classified by the types of epidermal cells involved:
- Basal cell carcinoma develops from abnormal growth of the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis and is the most common type of skin cancer.
- Squamous cell carcinoma involves changes in the squamous cells, found in the middle layer of the epidermis.
- ultraviolet radiation used in indoor tanning equipment may also cause melanoma.
- People whose skin burns easily are most at risk of developing melanoma - typically people with fair skin, fair or red hair, and blue eyes.
- Melanoma occurs in the melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) and is less common than squamous or basal cell carcinoma -- but more dangerous. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
Treatment of Malignant Melanoma
The best treatment is early detection. Treatment for melanoma begins with the dermatologic surgical removal of the melanoma and some normal appearing skin around the growth. Removal. Deeper melanomas are more likely to spread. If a melanoma does spread, it typically spreads first to the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a series of vessels throughout the body much like blood vessels that are responsible for cleaning the body's tissues. Different types of skin cancer require different treatment approaches. See the specific type of skin cancer for information:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Minimizing sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin damage, including many types of skin cancer.
- Protect your skin from the sun when you can -- wear protective clothing such as hats, long-sleeved shirts, long skirts, or pants.
- Try to avoid exposure during midday, when the sun is most intense.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Apply sunscreen at least one-half hour before sun exposure, and reapply frequently.
- Apply sunscreen during winter months as well.