Are You At Risk?
Malignant melanoma does not have to be a life-threatening disease. Of all the cancers, this is one of the easiest to treat if detected early. If allowed to progress without treatment however, it can be fatal.
The key to early detection and treatment is to recognise the symptoms and seek treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.
What is Melanoma?
Everyone's skin has pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. They are present in the outer layer of our skin (epidermis) and are responsible for producing melanin. Melanin is what gives us our tan. Once the melanocytes are damaged, they mutate or alter and may become cancerous. They have the ability to become larger, invade and spread through other tissue.
From what we have learned, there are four types of melanoma, each with varying characteristics...
- Superficial Spreading Melanoma - This is the most common malignant melanoma, responsible for about 70% of all cases. It is mostly found on the backs of men and on the legs of women. It is also found on the upper part of the back in both men and women. It spreads horizontally across the skin before changing to the vertical growth phase where it can become raised and possibly crust over or ulcerate as it penetrates into the deeper skin tissue.
- Lentigo Maligna Melanoma - It is an uncommon skin cancer as it develops from a condition similarly known as Lentigna Maligna which is a melanoma in situ (earliest stage skin cancer). It seems to be more predominant in the elderly, especially those who have spent a great deal of time in the sun. However, anyone who has skin damaged from sunlight are at increased risk. The most common areas affected are the face, especially the ears and nose.
- Acral Lentiginous Melanoma - This skin cancer begins as a brown or black discoloration on the bottoms of the feet, the palms and under fingernails or toenails. Occasionally it can develop in mucous membranes such as the throat or inside the nose. This type of melanoma is more common in Asians and African-Americans and least common in Caucasians. Unusually, there is eveidence that it is not linked directly to sun exposure but that trauma and injury may be a possible risk factor.
- Nodular Melanoma - This is found in approximately 10 to 15 percent of cases diagnosed. This melanoma spreads quickly due to a lack of horizonal growth and simply looks like a brown/black raised bump. Found mainly on the arms and legs of the elderly, or on the face and scalp of men, this should be immediately examined due to the fact that it is such a fast spreading melanoma.
Malignant melanoma, if left untreated, will spread and eventually invade deeper into the skin, taking over the blood and lymphatic vessels, spreading to other organs of the body. Although a melanoma in situ (earliest stage) is not as serious to begin with, do not let that fool you into thinking it is of no concern. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.
The Cause of Melanoma
Melanoma Symptoms - Some 'Hidden' Facts
Melanoma Staging - The Key Facts
Malignant Melanoma Treatment
Prognosis for Melanoma
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