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Melanoma: types, symptoms, causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

A melanoma is a type of cancer that occurs when cancer cells appear between melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells that have the function of producing melanin, responsible for the pigmentation of the skin, such as the fact of getting brown or the formation of freckles. It can be caused by excessive exposure to sunlight , among other factors that we will explain in this article. One of the symptoms that alert us to a melanoma is the formation of freckles or moles that undergo changes in their size, shape and color. In its early stage, melanoma has high survival rates, while the risk of not surviving it increases when metastasis occurs. At FastlyHealwe explain the types, symptoms, causes and treatments of melanoma .

Types of melanomas

The development of melanoma is explained in two stages. The first affects the epidermis, so it does not affect the deep layers of the skin, but the external part, while the second affects the deep tissues of the skin. In men, it usually appears on the back, hips, head, or neck; in women on the legs or trunk, although they can appear in other parts of the body that make it more difficult to detect. Among the different types of melanoma we find:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma . It is the most common type in white people. It occurs more often in the trunk area in men and in the legs in women. It is presented with an irregular shape, so you can see the difference compared to other freckles. Its development is slow and one or more can appear, presenting a color that can vary between black, pink, gray or brown.
  • Malignant lentigo . In general, it occurs in older people who are used to sunbathing, so the spot or spots appear in these areas. At the beginning, the spot has a poorly defined border, which can disappear and appear in other areas of the body, presenting a brown color.
  • Nodular melanoma . Its appearance is more common on the trunk and head, and it is more frequent in men than in women. Its appearance usually occurs in people between 50 and 60 years old and is the second most common type of melanoma. It grows rapidly and does not look like a spot, but rather a tumor nodule, that is, a brown, black, reddish or bluish mass that looks more like a wound and can bleed frequently.
  • Acro lentigious melanoma . It affects in a greater proportion the black and oriental population, although it can also appear in people with white skin, especially on the soles of the feet and on the hands. Its presence is not related to any specific age and its development is characterized by the formation of a tumor on top of the spot that initially appears. The colors can be black, pink, gray or brown and the edges are jagged.

Symptoms associated with melanoma

The main symptom that can alert you to the presence of a melanoma is a change in the shape, color or size of a mole. When cancer cells appear and reproduce, new ones or moles can appear or that those that already exist present changes. For this reason, it is important to carry out a review that we can carry out ourselves by visualizing the moles that we have on our skin. The fact of having a mole does not imply that you have a melanoma, even if a new one appears; in fact, all of us have a mole on our body. We must observe the different changes in our moles to be able to detect the possible symptoms that would alert of a melanoma:

  • When we appreciate that the color of a mole is whitish, reddish or bluish.
  • When the edges are irregular, poorly defined.
  • When a mole is not symmetrical, presenting a different shape on one side than the other.
  • When we perceive an increase in the mole or it measures more than 6 millimeters.

Causes of melanoma

The term melanoma has gained recognition in recent years. This is due to the number of cases that have appeared in relation to excessive exposure to the sun . For this reason, people have been made aware of adopting proper habits when it comes to activities in which people are exposed to the sun, such as going to the beach. Some of the factors that could lead to an increased risk of developing a cancer of this type:

  • Having moles with unusual features.
  • Having a high number of moles.
  • Children with congenital moles, that is, they are born with moles.
  • Have fair skin and hair.
  • Having been in the sun frequently and getting burned.
  • Having a family history of melanomas or moles with unusual features.
  • Being over 30 years old and a man.
  • If you have a weak immune system, there is an increased risk of different types of skin cancer.

Treatments for melanoma

Early detection of melanoma, as in most cancers, is vital to greatly increase the chances of survival. In the case of melanoma, the survival rate in its early detection is 95%. It is very important to go to the doctor when some of the symptoms previously exposed are detected. The medical specialist will be in charge of recommending the most appropriate treatment to combat skin cancer.

  • Surgery . It consists of the most common treatment applied to combat melanoma. The melanoma is removed along with healthy tissue to prevent cancer cells from growing again. It is not a complicated procedure and does not imply a high risk for the patient.
  • Chemotherapy . It is not a very effective treatment for melanoma. It is performed in the event that there is metastasis and the cancer has spread to other areas of the body, in order to eliminate the cells reaching all places by administering drugs intravenously. In addition, this treatment is the one that presents a greater number of side effects, such as fever, fatigue, vomiting, hair loss, among others.
  • Immunotherapy . It is one of the treatments that has advanced the most lately and consists of stimulating the immune system, strengthening the defenses to fight melanoma. To do this, the most common is to administer interferons , a substance that the body produces naturally but in small amounts. Sometimes a combination of immunotherapy with chemotherapy is used in order to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
  • Radiation therapy . It consists of the exposure to radiation of the area where there is a melanoma to kill cancer cells. When it comes to melanoma, the use of this treatment is exclusive in cases where there is bone or brain metastasis.

Skin cancer prevention

Although there is no remedy that allows you to completely avoid the appearance of a melanoma, we can take into account a series of factors that can help prevent it considerably. In fact, the most important prevention is to avoid exposure to the sun, since it is the main cause of the development of skin cancer. The sun contains ultraviolet rays, as do artificial machines to tan the skin. These rays damage the DNA of skin cells, which can damage the DNA of the genes responsible for controlling the growth of the cells that make up the skin. Therefore, it is advisable to take into account the following:

  • Protect our skin with suitable sun cream. This implies the use of sunscreen both on the beach and in the mountains, even if we are not sunbathing, or in any other place where we are exposed to it.
  • Avoid sunbathing in the hours when it has the greatest impact.
  • Protect other areas of the body, such as eyes and head with sunglasses and hats.
  • Do not tan with artificial UVA machines.
  • Check freckles and moles on our body from time to time.
  • Take into account that the effect of the sun impacts more on the skin when it is wet and when it reflects on other elements such as snow or crystals.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Melanoma: types, symptoms, causes and treatment , we recommend that you enter our Skin, hair and nails category .

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