Health Program

 Melanoma

Definition


Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. It affects the melanocytes in the skin which make melanin. Melanin gives the skin color and helps protect the body from UV radiation.


Cause


When the skin is exposed to sunlight the melanocytes produced melanin. When the skin is exposed to excessive sun light or UV Rays the melanocytes can grow abnormally and become cancerous.


Risk Factor


  • The older you are the higher the risk of getting melanomas

  • The more time you spend outside the more risk you have for getting melanoma

  • Having dysplastic nevi (moles that are irregular in shape)

  • Having many moles

  • Fair skin

  • Personal history of melanoma or skin cancer

  • Family history of melanoma

  • Severe blistering sunburns


Risk Groups


  • People who have weakened immune systems (people who have certain cancers, use drugs from organ transplants, or have HIV)

  • People who live where there are increased exposure to UV radiation (example Texas has more incidents of melanomas then Michigan)


Symptoms


The first symptom of a melanoma is a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole. It can also appear on the body as a new mole. In men the melanoma appears in the upper body between the shoulders and hips, or on the head or neck. In women the melanoma appears on the lower legs. These are the most common places for the melanoma to appear; however, melanomas can appear anywhere on the body.


Treatment


Surgery is always the first step in treating melanoma no matter what stage the melanoma is in. the surgery is performed to remove the entire tumor and also some surrounding tissue. This surgery is the only treatment needed for people with small melanomas.


The only thing left for these people is to have follow ups with their doctor to make sure that they melanoma has not come back. When treating larger melanomas the patient will have to go through treatments including: immunotherapy, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy. If the melanoma has spread to other areas of the body like the lungs it cannot be cured. In these cases the treatment just focuses on relieving the symptoms and keeping the patients as comfortable as possible.


Prevention


The best way to prevent melanoma is to reduce the time you spend in the sun. Also, doing a skin self-exam every 6 to 8 weeks can help you find any signs of melanoma in its early stages. To help protect your skin from the harmful UV rays take these precautions:


  • Avoid exposure to the sun during midday hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)

  • When outside wear long sleeves, long pants, and hat.

  • Help protect your skin by using creams, lotions, or gels that contain sunscreen.

  • Wear sunglasses. Sunglasses can help protect the eye and the skin around the eye.


Statistics


  • Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults

  • Every year more then 50,00 people learn that they have melanoma

  • Protecting against the sun the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of melanoma by 78%.


Source: Melanoma


Cancer