Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that is usually curable if caught early. However, it can be very dangerous if it spreads. Originating in cells called melanocytes, melanoma often appears on the chest, back, face, legs and arms. In some cases, melanoma can appear on parts of the body that receive little sunlight exposure, like under nail beds. New cases of melanoma have been on the rise for the last 30 years, according to the American Cancer Society. In fact, over 76,000 new melanomas are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. While melanoma isn’t the most common type of skin cancer, it is the deadliest.
Specific characteristics set melanomas apart from regular moles. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, dermatologists recommend using the A-B-C-D-E method to help identify abnormal moles:
A – asymmetry
B – borders that are uneven
C – changes in color
D – diameter (larger than a quarter of an inch)
E – evolving in shape, color, size, texture, elevation, etc.
Melanin, which gives our skin its color, is produced by cells called melanocytes. If these cells undergo DNA damage, it can lead to melanoma. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause such DNA damage. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, UV radiation from tanning beds increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. Sun exposure also bumps up the risk. The exact reason as to why some people develop melanoma while others do not remains unclear. However, certain risk factors are believed to increase the likelihood of developing it. According to the American Cancer Society, these risk factors include:
While melanoma is arguably the most dangerous type of skin cancer, it’s also the most curable. If caught early, the chances of overcoming melanoma is quite favorable. According to the American Cancer Society, 95 percent of patients who treat melanoma during its initial stage will likely be cancer-free 10 years later. Treating early-stage melanoma usually involves removing the melanoma and its surrounding skin and tissue. If the melanoma is advanced, more traditional cancer treatments come into play.