What is melanoma skin cancer?

Dr Giuseppe Spadola May 14, 2021

Melanoma is a form of cancer that develops in the skin’s pigment cells (melanocytes). There are various types of skin cancer, and Melanoma skin cancer accounts for only 1% of them. However, it is statistically the most deadly of all skin cancers. 

Melanocytes produce melanin to help protect the skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation i.e. sunlight. Most moles are quite safe, however, sometimes the melanocytes in a mole begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way.

What does a suspicious mole look like?

A suspicious NEVUS, or a suspicious mole, could look like this : 

You should get your skin checked once a year anyway, but if you see such a shape, make an appointment right now with your dermatologist or your GP.

Awareness changes everything

Do you know that Melanoma can develop at all ages, and it presents one of the highest incidence rates in adults aged 30-40 years? The good news is that the risk factors for melanoma are very well known and therefore can be prevented.

Being aware of these factors allows you to have a few more chances to recognize the disease before it grows and spreads, and when therapeutic treatment has a better chance of having positive effects.

Since the first environmental risk factor is overexposure to harmful sun rays, known as ultraviolet rays, learning how you can protect yourself from these harmful rays can reduce the risk of developing melanoma.

What can I do to prevent skin cancer and melanoma?

Certain behaviors can reduce, but not entirely remove, the risk of developing skin cancer. 

The following is, generally, recommended:

·   sunbathe moderately, especially in childhood (up to the age of 20 years), avoiding excesses and the subsequent sunburn that occurs at all ages

·   protect the skin, avoiding exposure to the sun during the warmest hours of the day (between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm)

·   avoid using tanning lamps or tanning beds

·   wear hats and sunglasses, use protective creams

·   follow a low fat diet rich in antioxidant substances, such as vitamins A, C, D, E, coenzyme Q and beta-carotene

·   attend regular examinations (as recommended by the specialist)

When should I get a skin cancer check?

A NEVI evaluation examination is recommended to everybody, starting from the age of 15 years.

Subjects most at risk of developing skin cancer present one or more of the following characteristics:

·   pale complexion, blue eyes and blonde or red hair

·   several clinically atypical NEVI

·   history of recurrent sunburn, especially during adolescence and youth

·   personal history of skin cancer

·   1st degree relations with skin cancer

·   altered immune defenses (e.g., subjects submitted to organ transplantation or immunosuppressive therapy)

We hope this article could help you understand more about melanoma skin cancer.