Melanoma is a disease in which cancer cells originate in the skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are found throughout the lower part of the epidermis. They produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken. The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. The skin has 2 main layers: the epidermis (upper or outer layer) and the dermis (lower or inner layer). When melanoma starts in the skin, the disease is called cutaneous melanoma. description summary is about cutaneous (skin) melanoma. Melanoma may also occur in the eye and is called intraocular or ocular melanoma.
There are 3 basic types of skin cancers
Melanoma is most aggressive of all these three types of skin cancers. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body. In men, melanoma is often found on the trunk (the area from the shoulders to the hips) or the head and neck. In women, melanoma often develops on the arms and legs. Melanoma usually occurs in adults, but it is sometimes found in children and adolescents. Unusual moles, exposure to sunlight, and health history can affect the risk of developing melanoma.
- Basal cell skin cancer
- Squamous cell skin cancer
Risk factors for melanoma include the following:
The following may be an early or late evidence of melanoma. If you notice any of the following changes in mole a doctor should be consulted.
- Unusual moles
- Exposure to natural sunlight
- Exposure to artificial ultraviolet light (tanning booth)
- Family or personal history of melanoma
- Being white and older than 20 years
- Red or blond hair
- White or light-colored skin and freckles
- Blue eyes
A suspicious mole can be examined by a physician or nurse and may perform the following tests.
- Changes in size, shape, or color
- Irregular edges or borders
- More than 1 color
- Asymmetrical (if the mole is divided in half, the 2 halves are different in size or shape)
- Oozes, bleeds, or is ulcerated (a hole forms in the skin when the top layer of cells breaks down and the underlying tissue shows through)
- Change in color
- Satellite moles (new moles that grow near an existing mole
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
- Skin examination: A doctor or nurse examines the skin to look for moles, birthmarks, or other pigmented areas that look abnormal in color, size, shape, or texture.
- Biopsy: A local excision is done to remove as much of the suspicious mole or lesion as possible. A pathologist then looks at the tissue under a microscope to check for cancer cells. Because melanoma can be hard to diagnose, patients should consider having their biopsy sample checked by a second pathologist.
Ref: National cancer Institute (http://www.nci.nih.gov/)
- The stage of melanoma (whether cancer is found in the outer layer of skin only, or has spread to the lymph nodes, or to other places in the body.
- Whether there was bleeding or ulceration at the primary site.
- The location and size of the tumor.
- The patient’s general health.