Skin cancer – melanoma
Melanoma is a skin cancer that can also spread to other body organs. It is the most severe form of skin cancer, which develops in the cells known as melanocytes that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that helps to give your skin its color. Melanoma cancer can also develop in the eyes and rarely inside the body, such as the nose or throat.
The first indication of melanoma is often a new mole or appearance change in an existing mole. Moles are typically oval or round, with a smooth edge, and generally not bigger than 6mm in diameter. But mole size doesn’t indicate melanoma, a healthy mole can be larger than 6mm, and the cancerous mole can be smaller than 6mm. Symptoms to look out for in a mole are:
- Increase in shape
- Change in color
- Bleeding or turning crusty
- Sore or itchy
Have an ABCDE checklist to know the difference between a normal and a melanoma mole:
- Asymmetrical: Melanoma moles will usually have two different halves and will be in an irregular shape
- Border: The moles will typically have a notched or ragged border
- Color: Often come in a mix of two colors
- Diameter: Mostly larger than 6mm in diameter
- Enlargement: Changes shape over timeThe cancerous mole can appear anywhere on your body, but they often appear on the back for men and the legs for women. Developing underneath nails, in soles, inside the mouth, and in genital areas is rare for melanoma.
UV (ultraviolet) light from the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer, as it will damage the DNA in skin cells. There are three types of ultraviolet lights:
- Ultraviolet A
- Ultraviolet B
- Ultraviolet C
UVC is dangerous to the skin, but Earth’s atmosphere often restricts them from entering. UVA and UVB can damage people with pale skin over time and increase their chances of developing skin cancer.
Other risk factors
You are more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer if you have:
- A close relative with the same type of cancer
- Pale skin
- Blonde or red hair
- Blue eyes
- Multiple freckles
- Damaged skin due to sunburn
- Had radiotherapy treatments
- A condition that can quickly suppress the immune system, like diabetes or if you are under any medications that suppress your immune system
- Already had skin cancer
The treatments for melanoma skin cancer depend on the stage or spread of the cancer.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022