Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that develops in skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes produce melanin, the substance that gives your skin colour. In rare cases, melanoma can form in your eyes, nose, or throat.
Melanoma can start anywhere on your skin. Some areas prone to melanoma include the back, legs, arms, and face. It may also develop from an existing mole or from normal-looking skin. When melanoma develops from a mole, you will notice the mole undergoing changes such as shape, size, or colour.
Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer, but when diagnosed early, treatment can be done. If it is not detected in its early stages, melanoma can be spread easily to other parts of the body.
When skin cells develop normally, healthy cells push older cells to the surface of the skin, and those older skin cells eventually die and fall off. Melanoma starts occurring when DNA is damaged from sunburn or tanning, where Ultraviolet (UV) radiation leads to mutations in the melanocytes. This may result in uncontrolled cellular growth, forming a mass of cancerous cells.
It is unclear what exactly causes the DNA damage in skin cells, and how this leads to melanoma. It may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The leading cause may be prolonged exposure to UV rays from the sun, or artificial sources such as tanning lamps and beds.
Melanoma can also form in areas that do not receive much sun, such as the soles of your feet or your palms. Speak to a dermatologist if you notice any signs or symptoms of melanoma.
Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body and often appear in areas that are overexposed to the sun, such as your back, legs, arms, and face.
Early signs and symptoms of melanomas include the following:
A normal mole will generally be of uniform colour and have a distinct border. They will be oval or round-shaped and are often not larger than 6mm in diameter.
If you notice changes in the size, shape, colour, they are often the first warning signs of melanoma, and you should see a dermatologist to get a mole check. These changes can occur in an existing mole, or melanoma may appear as a new or unusual-looking mole. The “ABCDE” rule is helpful in remembering the warning signs of melanoma:
While you cannot completely eliminate the risks, here are a few ways to help prevent melanoma and other skin cancers from developing:
Check your body and skin regularly for new growths. If you notice any abnormalities in your skin that does not go away, and is changing, different, or looks out of the ordinary, you should contact your dermatologist to get it checked.
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