skin melanoma

Melanoma (meaning black tumor) is not only the most malignant of all skin cancers, but it is also among the most malignant of all cancers. It can spread to nearly every organ and tissue in the body and can lead to death within a year after it recurs in distant sites.

According to the American Cancer Society, the most recent estimates show that America alone has over 68,000 new cases of melanoma every year, and more than 8,500 deaths annually directly attributable to this type of skin cancer. The lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 1 in 50 for whites, 1 in 1000 for blacks, and 1 in 200 for Hispanics.

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes located in the epidermis. These melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, the pigment that colors the skin, and protects it from harmful ultra-violet rays.

The majority of melanomas are brown or black. However, some are in the same color as the skin, or pink, red, purple, blue, or white. The usual sites of melanoma in white people include the head, neck, trunk, and limbs. In the black people, there is a good likelihood to show up on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and mucous membranes.

These tumors can also show up in somewhat unusual locations, such as under the nail of a finger or toe and on the mucosa lining inside of the mouth, vagina, or anus.

There are two phases of growth of melanoma – radially (outwardly on the surface of the skin) and vertically (deeply into the layers of the skin). Once the melanoma has penetrated deeply into the dermis of the skin, and has reached the lymphatic and blood vessels, the melanoma can utilize the lymphatics and bloodstream to spread to distant locations, most commonly to the lungs, liver, and brain. It is said to metastasize.

For patients with a melanoma less than 1mm thick, the likelihood of death due to the disease is only about 10%. However, this would rise to about 30% for a tumor with a thickness of 3mm.

Though we come across melanoma as a deadly skin cancer, there is a lot of hope for a 100 percent cure if it is detected and treated early. As a matter of fact, more than 90% of patients are alive for five years or more following their first diagnosis of melanoma.

Skin cancer is amongst the most common forms of cancer found these days. It is also highly preventable and very curable if it is caught early enough.

There are three different types of skin cancers that can be found on your skin.

The first form of skin cancer to emerge is squamous cell carcinoma. These neoplasms typically develop in areas which have been exposed to too much sun, more often than not  the face and the ears. A lump or a swelling is often the first manifestation of squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. If left untreated, it ulcerates into an unhealing open sore which continues to grow in size. In the later stages it can also spread to other parts of the body.

Basal cell carcinoma is another one of the types of skin cancers. These are generally found on the face, hands and neck and are as many as seventy five percent of all skin cancers that are diagnosed. Basal cell carcinoma is very treatable and can be cured quite easily if it is found early enough. The symptoms of basal cell carcinoma are a sore that bleeds and is irritated. It may also resemble a fresh scar.

The third type of skin cancer is the most dangerous of all of them. It is melanoma and it can be found on any area of the body. It is usually found on the arms and legs in the beginning. It will look like a mole or freckle that has recently appeared on the skin. It can also be from an existing mole that has recently changed its size, shape or color. The border of the melanoma will be indistinguishable and it may have more than one color.

It is imperative that the melanoma type of skin cancer be found and eradicated early to prevent the problems that will come with the later stages of this skin cancer.

There are many steps you can take to prevent skin cancer. Most importantly, try protect your skin from the sun whenever you are outside. It is a good idea to always wear sunscreen no matter what time of year it is.  Have enough clothing to keep the skin from over-exposure to the sun.  Have a hat handy to keep your face and head in shade.

In a nutshell, if you can keep an eye on your skin and be mindful of  early symptoms of cancer development, you would likely keep yourself out of trouble.

As always, your best chance is from prevention and awareness.