Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin (pigment) in your skin. It’s the most serious form of skin cancer due to its potential for aggressive growth and spread. Here’s what I can share about melanoma:
  • The most important sign is a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot on your skin. This change can involve:
    • Asymmetry: One half of the mole doesn’t match the other.
    • Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
    • Color variation: The mole has multiple colors or shades of brown, black, red, white, or blue.
    • Diameter: The mole is larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser).
    • Evolution: The mole changes in size, shape, or color over time.
  • Other potential signs include:
    • A mole that bleeds, oozes, or becomes crusty.
    • A mole that is itchy or tender.
    • A sore that doesn’t heal.
    • A dark area under your nail that wasn’t caused by an injury.
Risk factors:
  • Fair skin: People with light skin, freckles, and light hair or eyes are at higher risk.
  • Sun exposure: Excessive sun exposure without proper protection is a major risk factor.
  • Family history: Having a close relative with melanoma increases your risk.
  • Multiple moles: Having more than 50 moles or many unusual moles increases risk.
  • Previous skin cancer: Having had another type of skin cancer makes melanoma more likely.
Diagnosis and treatment:
  • Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment. If you notice any changes in your skin, see a doctor for a skin check.
  • Diagnosis typically involves a physical exam, dermoscopy (using a magnifying device), and potentially a biopsy.
  • Treatment options depend on the stage and severity of the melanoma, and may include surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy.
  • Protect your skin from the sun by using sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade during peak sun hours.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Examine your skin regularly for changes and see a doctor if you notice anything concerning.
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