Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Melanoma is a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer.
May has several annual recognitions throughout the month. One of the most important is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention.
What is a melanoma? Is it dangerous?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes. These cells, that give the skin it’s tan or brown color, start to grow out of control. Cells in any part of the body can become cancer. They can spread throughout the body easily.
Melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancers. However melanoma is more dangerous, because it is more likely to spread to parts of the body if not caught and treated early.
Most skin cancers start in the top layer of skin, called the epidermis. Three main types of cells in this layer are squamous, basal cells, and melanocytes. The melanocytes are the cells that can develop melanoma.
Melanoma is more likely to start on the trunk in men and on the legs of women. Having darkly pigmented skin does lower your risk of melanoma. But anyone can get melanoma on the palms of a hand or a sole of the feet, even under the nails.
What increases my risk of melanoma?
Risk factors for melanoma skin cancer are exposure to UV rays. Sources of UV rays include:
- tanning beds
- sun lamps
People with melanoma often have an early history of sunburn or other intense sun exposure. Other risk factors are as follows:
- having many moles or atypical moles
- congenital melanocytic nevus (a birthmark, present at birth)
- fair skin
- light hair
- family or personal history of melanoma
- weakened immune system
Melanoma is more common in women under age 50 and men over age 50.
How can I lower my risk of developing melanoma?
You can lower your risk by the following:
- Limit your exposure to ultraviolet rays:
- Seek shade, wear shirts, sunscreen, hats and sunglasses.
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
- Watch for abnormal moles.
How is melanoma treated?
Depending on the stage of the cancer, and other factors, there are a variety of treatment options.
Options may include:
- Immunotherapy (medicine that stimulates a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively)
- Targeted Therapy depending on possible genetic mutations present (medicine that attacks cancer cells while doing less damage to normal cells)
- chemotherapy (medicine that acts on all rapidly dividing cells, both normal and cancerous) and/or
- radiation therapy
Early detection is key in the prevention of skin cancer. Schedule a skin examination with your health care provider annually.
For more information, visit: americancancersociety.org
Author: Dr. Brad Scott
Baptist Memorial Hospital Union County, Creekmore Clinic, Melanoma, New Albany MS, Northeast MS news