Melanoma is a malignant tumor which originates from pigment-containing cells which are called melanocytes. It is the rarest, but, as well, one of the most aggressive types of cancer, which makes early detection and treatment extremely important. Although the risk of getting this type of skin cancer increases with age, this disease affects all age groups, even kids. The latest statistics show that the incidence of melanoma is getting higher in the US and worldwide.
The main factors contributing to the emergence of this type of skin cancer are DNA damage occurring from excessive exposure to UV light from the sun and genetic predisposition.
People with a large number of moles (more than 50), fair skin, a family history of the same disease, weakened immune system and personal history of blistering sunburns are at greater risk.
Superficial spreading melanoma is one of the most common in Caucasians. It often develops from a previously existing lesion, typically a dysplastic nevus.
Nodular melanoma normally is darkly pigmented or has multiple colors, but sometimes it’s not pigmented, which makes the differential diagnosis very hard. Acral lentiginous melanoma is uncommon in the general population, but it is the most common type among Asian patients. This type usually affects the palms and fingers. Subungual melanoma, located beneath the nail, is often acral lentiginous melanoma. Lentigo melanoma is strongly related to excessive sun exposure. Additionally, there are also other types with a variable presentation called atypical.
The early melanoma could give metastases, but such cases are relatively rare – less than a fifth of cases detected early become metastatic. Metastatic melanoma may cause nonspecific symptoms like loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness.
Pathological staging of melanoma includes five stages (0 – 4), and the stage is determined according to the size of the primary tumor, number of affected lymph nodes, and presence of distant metastases.
Early detection is crucial for successful treatment. If it has been detected in the early phase, the appropriate surgical procedure helps patients to clear all the cancerous cells. In more advanced stages, the additional means of chemotherapy and immunotherapy are needed to achieve the favorable prognosis.
Its prognosis highly depends on the stage and histological type of the tumor. Stage zero, in which the tumor is only affecting the superficial layer of the skin, has up to a 99.9% survival rate if removed properly and in time. On the other hand, patients with the stage four survive in 7 – 19% of the cases.
How fast does it grow?
No clear data helps to predict the growth of malignant lesion in each particular case, but it is important to know that even 29 days delay of surgery may make the prognosis worse.
That’s why you need to see an expert as soon as possible if you’ve noticed any suspicious changes on your skin.
Can a mole turn into melanoma?
Very few moles turn to it, that’s why removing them does not work as an effective prevention measure.
Where does it occur?
It can affect any part of the skin, not only those which are frequently exposed to the sun, including even arches. It could also appear under the fingernails and on the iris.
Our dermatology center offers the latest treatments that allow successfully combat all types of skin cancer. Our award-winning team will be happy to help you or people you care about to overcome this disease with minimal disruption to the overall health and appearance possible.
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