The primary risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, including sunlight and tanning beds, with the risk growing with the amount of exposure. Early exposure, particularly for people who had frequent sunburns as a child, also increases melanoma risk.
It's likely that a combination of factors, including environmental and genetic factors, causes melanoma. Still, doctors believe exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and from tanning lamps and beds is the leading cause of melanoma.
Melanomas may appear suddenly and without warning. They are found most frequently on the face and neck, upper back and legs, but can occur anywhere on the body. Is melanoma a serious disease? Yes.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes (the cells that give the skin its tan or brown color) start to grow out of control. Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can then spread to other areas of the body.
Melanoma is more likely to occur in older people, but it is also found in younger people. In fact, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people younger than 30 (especially younger women). Melanoma that runs in families may occur at a younger age.
Other melanoma warning signs may include:
Pigment, redness or swelling that spreads outside the border of a spot to the surrounding skin. Itchiness, tenderness or pain. Changes in texture, or scales, oozing or bleeding from an existing mole. Blurry vision or partial loss of sight, or dark spots in the iris.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light—both from the sun and from indoor tanning beds—is the primary risk factor for developing melanoma, and the risk grows with the amount of exposure. Sunburns at any age, but especially as a child, are a major risk factor for melanoma.
Metastatic melanoma was once almost a death sentence, with a median survival of less than a year. Now, some patients are living for years, with a few out at more than 10 years.
What to look for: Usually, the most obvious warning signs of early stage melanoma are changes to your moles or spots: in size, shape, colour or in how they look or how they feel. Melanoma can also appear as a new mole (more commonly in people aged 50 years or more)2.
There is no sure way to prevent melanoma. Some risk factors such as your age, race, and family history can't be controlled.
Smoking. Usually, when we think of smoking, we relate it to cancers of the lungs, mouth, or throat. You may be surprised to know that smoking can also have a significant effect on the development of skin cancer. Smoking can increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma and melanoma by damaging the skin.
Few people inherit melanoma genes
About 10% of melanomas are caused by a gene mutation (change) that passes from one generation to the next. Most people get melanoma for other reasons. The sun, tanning beds, and tanning lamps give off ultraviolet (UV) rays. These rays are known to damage our skin.
Did you know that not all cases of skin cancer have symptoms that most skin guides tell you to look for? Many times there isn't even a mole to check! In fact, only 20-30%1 of melanoma cases grow from moles or are mole-associated.
Survival for all stages of melanoma
around 90 out of every 100 people (around 90%) will survive their melanoma for 5 years or more after diagnosis. more than 85 out of every 100 people (more than 85%) will survive their melanoma for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed.
Melanoma is a type of cancer which usually occurs on skin that has been overexposed to the sun. However, melanomas can also occur on parts of the body that have never been exposed to the sun.
“You could have melanoma for a long time before you realize it, because some types are not so obvious. Some aggressive forms, like nodular melanoma, grow fast, are visible and can hurt or bleed.” While certain groups may be at a higher risk for melanoma, anyone can get the disease.
Some melanomas itch. The “E” in the ABCDE rule of melanoma is for “Evolving,” which means that something about the mole changes. New itching or tenderness falls under “Evolving.” So does a change in the size, shape, color or elevation of the mole. A melanoma may also begin to bleed or crust over.
Treatment for early-stage melanomas usually includes surgery to remove the melanoma. A very thin melanoma may be removed entirely during the biopsy and require no further treatment. Otherwise, your surgeon will remove the cancer as well as a border of normal skin and a layer of tissue beneath the skin.
When cancer cells are found in the removed lymph node, the stage of the cancer changes. This is called restaging. Because cancer is found deeper than the skin, more surgery may be needed. Also, another treatment that can kill the cancer cells may be added to your treatment plan.
Melanoma can grow very quickly. It can become life-threatening in as little as 6 weeks and, if untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun. Nodular melanoma is a highly dangerous form of melanoma that looks different from common melanomas.
Does melanoma hurt? You can have melanoma without feeling any pain or discomfort. For many people, the only sign of this skin cancer is a spot that has some of the ABCDEs of melanoma or a line beneath a nail. Sometimes, melanoma causes discomfort.
Choose a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get the greatest benefit. Aim to eat a minimum of 5 servings of whole fruits and vegetables daily. Choose sources of healthy fat. Avoid fried, greasy, and fatty foods, Choose baked, broiled, or grilled foods instead.
Border that is irregular: The edges are often ragged, notched, or blurred in outline. The pigment may spread into the surrounding skin. Color that is uneven: Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, gray, red, pink, or blue may also be seen.
A painless medical technique being used for early detection of melanoma is epiluminescence microscopy, or dermoscopy. Using a handheld device, a doctor can evaluate the patterns of size, shape, and pigmentation in pigmented skin lesions.