Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer, as it can quickly become fatal if left untreated and allowed to spread throughout body. Melanomas are malignant tumors that occur in the skin cells that give skin, hair and eyes their pigment, called melanocytes.
Although UV radiation from sun exposure and genetic predisposition are two key risk factors for developing a melanoma, occurrences of this type of skin cancer may also appear in areas that are not subjected to much sun exposure, such as the soles of the feel and palms of the hands.
Melanomas may even develop in the eyes, mouth, digestive tract, urinary tract, vagina or underneath the nails. When melanomas occur in these areas, they are often referred to as “hidden melanomas.” Hidden melanomas are most common in patients with dark or ethnic skin tones.
Melanoma most commonly presents as abnormal or unusual moles that follow the ABCDE’s of unhealthy skin. See a skin cancer expert if you recognize any of the following melanoma symptoms:
- Asymmetry – Oddly-shaped moles, such as those that are irregular or dissimilar on each half
- span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Border irregularity – Moles with uneven, notched or scalloped borders
- span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Changes in color – Multi-colored moles, or moles with unevenly distributed color
- span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Diameter – Large moles with a diameter greater than or equal to 1/4 inch (6 millimeters)
- span style=”font-weight:bold;”>Evolving – Changes in a mole over time, including growth, changes color or shape and development of other symptoms like itchiness, oozing or bleeding
Remember, it is extremely important to treat melanomas before they spread, so early detection is key. Regular skin self-exams and professional checkups should be performed, especially in patients who are genetically predisposed to developing melanoma and those suffering from significant sun damage.
Most melanomas are removed via surgical excision or Mohs Micrographic Surgery, which involves removing cancerous skin tissue, as well as some healthy tissue surrounding the affected area.
If melanoma has progressed and spread beyond the skin, lymph node dissection, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy to boost the body’s cancer-fighting ability may be recommended.
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