Melanoma the Deadly Skin Disease: Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Melanoma is one of the skin cancers that develops in the pigment cells present in the skin. These pigment cells are known as melanocytes. Compared to the other types of skin cancers, melanoma is more severe since it has the ability to spread to the other parts of the body and cause serious illness or even death. It has been proven by research that this particular type of skin cancer can develop in any part of the body but they are mostly found in areas that are exposed to the sun. In a country like the United State of America, there are about 50,000 new diagnosed cases of melanoma every year. Early detection and diagnosis of melanoma is necessary for the survival of a patient. With minor surgery, early melanomas can be treated. On the other hand, melanoma can become life threatening in case it is not treated properly and on time

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer. Based on studies, it has been shown that melanoma is the most severe of all the types of skin cancer. The other two that are grouped as non-melanoma skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Squamous cells carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas are the vast majority of skin cancers that exist while a small but dangerous type of skin cancers are the malignant melanomas. The malignant melanoma type of skin cancer is considered dangerous and highly aggressive because it tends to spread very fast to other parts of the body.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma skin cancer is known as the most aggressive and life threatening of all skin cancers that causes more than 900 deaths every year. Efforts are driven to early diagnosis of the disease. This is because the cure rates depend greatly on the stage of melanoma at the time of detection. The malignant melanoma skin cancer develops in the cells that give the skin its color and has a very high probability of spreading to other parts of the body. The frequency of occurrence for malignant melanoma is closely related to the constitutive color of a person’s skin, and highly depends on the geographical location. Malignant melanoma starts developing when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations that causes the skin cells to grow rapidly and form malignant tumors. The malignant tumors that have been formed then create the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. In as much as the majority of melanomas are black and brown in color, we can still have some that are pink, red, purple, blue or white in color. Even though the main cause of melanoma is still not known, it can be connected to some environmental factors, genetic factors and the skin type of an individual.

Concerning the environmental factors, there have been many reports of melanoma in areas where there is intense sunlight throughout the year. With this high level of occurrence of melanoma in areas with intense sunlight, it was concluded that skin exposure to the sun might be a risk factor of early melanoma. However, the conclusion drowned from different studies was that artificial UV sources might also be linked to the risk of having melanoma. Also, it was reported by several studies that melanoma is more likely to occur in some people with high socioeconomic status. The justification of these studies was that these people stand the better chance to afford holiday in high UV intensity areas and are engaged in certain activities like sailing.

As concerning the genetic factors, the risk of early melanoma can be seen in a member of a family who has an evidence of melanoma in their family history. It has been shown that one-third out of the patient of melanoma have genetic abnormality. Also, there are some genetic disorder in the skin which might lead to the development of malignant melanoma.

Fair-skinned persons with skin that are sun-sensitive and burns rather than tans are more likely to get melanoma.

There are also hidden melanomas that can develop in areas of the body that have little or no exposure to the sun like the spaces between the toes, soles, palms, scalp or genitals. They are known as hidden melanomas since they occur in places that most people would not think to check. However, melanoma is more likely to occur in a hidden areas for people with darker skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

The second type of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the middle and outer layer of the skin is squamous cell carcinoma. This is one of the types of skin cancers that when diagnosed early and treated appropriately rarely threaten life. Squamous cell carcinoma is a skin cancer that slowly grows but it can spread to the tissues, bones and to the closest lymph nodes. In the United State of America, it was estimated that about 8,000 Americans died from squamous cell carcinoma in the year 2012. Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin that is not treated properly and on time can grow large or spread to other parts of the body and cause serious complications. Most of the research of skin cancer has shown that most squamous cell carcinomas develop from continued exposure to ultraviolet radiation that result either from sunlight, tanning beds or lamps. Squamous cell carcinomas are lesions or tumors that commonly form on areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun over long periods. They develop in areas of the body like the face, ears, hands, scalp, neck, arms and legs. However, squamous cell carcinoma can also occur in other part of the body like lips, mucous membranes, and genitals. Just like the other types of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma develop due to the damage DNA of the cell. This damage DNA of the cell causes the body to reproduce rapidly and uncontrollably to form squamous cells. For this reason, one can say squamous cell carcinoma is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The squamous cells often look like rough red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression. Research has shown that this type of skin cancer is liable to develop mostly in male, age people, fair-skinned people and people having eyes that are either blue, red, green or gray. In addition, the long-term exposure to chemicals such as arsenic in water, radiation and the sun's UV Rays can trigger squamous cell carcinoma. Lastly, people with inherited DNA condition, HPV, Bowen’s disease, HIV or AIDS are also liable to have it.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

This is the most common type of skin cancer that account for about 80 percent of all the various types of skin cancer. The basal cell carcinoma that are sometimes called rodent ulcers are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells. This type of skin cancer line the outermost layer of the skin. Basal cell carcinomas often looks like red patches, open sores, shiny bumps, pink growths, or scars. Although skin cancer can develop in any place on the body, it is mostly common in areas of the body that are exposed to the sun. Basal cell carcinomas hardly spread to other parts of the body and are not infectious. In as much as it hardly spread to other part of the body, but it has that ability to move to nearby bone or tissues that are found under your skin. Nevertheless, several treatments can get rid of the skin cancer before it moves to the nearby bone or tissue. It is very normal that you will feel worried when a doctor tells you that you have basal cell carcinomas. However, you should also know that basal cell carcinomas are the least dangerous when compared to all the various types of skin cancer. Although it is not too dangerous, you should not also take it for granted since it can be disfiguring if not treated on time. This skin cancer affects those people who are fair in complexion more and are common in men than in women. The skin cancer usually grows gradually and often does not show up for many years after extreme or long-term exposure to the sun. If you are exposed a lot to sunlight or use tanning beds, then you can get basal cell carcinomas at a younger age. This is because; research has shown that; ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from a tanning bed are the two main cause of basal cell carcinoma. The tumors basal cell carcinoma starts as small shiny bumps that develop usually on your nose or other parts of your face. However, the tumors are not only limited to the face or nose since they can develop on other body parts like the trunk, legs and arms. People with a fair skin color are more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

These cancers of the skin that include melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma often start as changes in a person skin. Although they are early warning signs of skin cancer, it is very difficult to tell if a particular patch will continue to change over time and become cancerous. Your skin cancer symptoms depend on the type of skin cancer developing on your skin. You need to be vigilant always about your skin even if you practice some of the best sun safety methods during the harsh weather. You have to learn to examine your skin at least once in a month to be able to make sure that there are no suspicious lesions. When you examine your body, you can identify potential skin cancers early and seek help from a doctor. For a successful examination of the body, you have to be able to spot out the skin cancer symptoms.  You have to take note of any new moles or growths on your body and any existing growths that have started growing or changing significantly. Below are some of the various symptoms pertaining to the various types of skin cancers:

Melanoma Skin Cancer symptoms

Melanoma begins in the melanocyte cells of the skin. These melanocyte cells are responsible for the production of pigment in the skin.

The most vital melanoma warning sign is the appearance of a new spot on the skin, an unusual-looking growth or a spot that change in shape, size or color. Other important signs include a spot that is different in terms of look from all of the other spots on your skin. Although brown spots, growths and moles on the skin are usually harmless, if you find more than 100 moles in your skin, then you are in a greater risk of having melanoma. To quickly recognize melanoma, it is very advisable to know your skin very well so that when there is any change you can easily recognize it. Early melanoma diagnosis can help crucially in the treatment. To help you identify appearances of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers you can look for moles with irregular shape, an uneven distribution of color on the skin (black, brown, red, pink, white or blue), moles of about 6 millimeters in size.

The appearance of a new mole is not the only sign, but you can examine a new mole further. So check to find out if the new mole or an existing mole itches, pains, bleeds, scabs or become crusty.  These indicate risk. You are also at risk when you have a mole that becomes inflame, thicker, firm and is elevated at the center. So, when you recognize any of these, kindly see the doctor for immediate consultation and checkup.

We have some other forms of melanomas that are rare and do not appear as mole on the skin. These more deceptive forms of melanomas and are often in positions that you might not even think of checking. They also look harmless.

-       The first of these rare forms of melanoma is Acral-lentiginous melanoma. It usually forms under a finger or toenail as narrow, dark streak. In as much as it can develop in all types of skin, it is common in people with darker skin pigment. Acral-lentiginous melanoma can also develop on the palms of a person’s hands or the soles of a person’s feet.

-       The second of these rare forms of melanoma is mucosal melanoma. It is a type of melanoma which develops in the mouth, nose, anus, digestive tract, vagina or urinary tract. Since they can easily be mistaken for other far more common conditions, it is very difficult to detect. However, should in case you realize that you have a sore in this part of your body that refuses to heal, rush to your doctor for checkup.

-       The last of these hidden types of melanomas is the ocular melanoma. It develops on the uvea of the eye. It present itself as dark spot on the iris and changes the shape of the pupil. Other symptoms includes poor or blurry vision, appearance of flashing light or floating specks on the eye.  Ocular melanoma can be diagnose during an eye exam.

It is important to note that some melanomas do not fit the above stated rules. For example, the moles of malignant melanoma vary greatly in appearance, and may sometimes show all of the changes stated above, while others may have only one or two unusual features. When you notice other changes, it is important to explain it to your doctor. However, you might have other warning signs like sore that does not heal, spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin and change in sensation such as pain. In addition to this sign, you also have redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole and change in the surface of a mole.

Squamous cell carcinomas skin cancer symptoms

Squamous cell carcinomas may appear as dome-shaped bumps of growths on areas of the skin regularly exposed to sunlight. These large growths may itch or hurt and it can pop through scars or chronic skin sores. Some of the common characteristic of these bumps of growths includes scaly red patches, warts, open sores, raised growths having a dimple, divot, or depression in the center, crusty or bleeding. This type of skin cancer is usually rough, crusty and bleeds easily when it is scraped. When the squamous cell carcinoma is discovered in its early stage, it is curable. However, when squamous cell carcinoma is neglected or not treated on time, it can be extremely disfiguring and can even lead to dead. Therefore, you need to check your skin regularly for common indicators of sun damage like wrinkles, freckles, age spots, changes in skin tone or pigment color, new or changing moles, skin stiffness and broken blood vessels.

Basal cell carcinoma skin cancer symptoms

Basal cell carcinoma usually appears like a raised, smooth, pearly bump on the areas of the skin like the head, neck, or shoulders that are being expose to sun. It has been noticed that most of the basal cell carcinomas are painless and people become aware of them as a scab that bleeds irregularly and does not completely heal. However, they are the easiest skin cancer to treat and they take time to spread to other parts of the body. When basal cell carcinomas are left for years without treatment, it can eventually erode your skin to cause an ulcer. Basal cell carcinomas can cause extensive damage to the tissue and bone. The key to finding and treating these cancers early is to have regular examinations of the skin for any new or strange growths and changes in the size, shape or color of a spot that already exists. The symptoms of basal cell carcinoma may include blue, black or brown patches and easy bleeding. Basal cell carcinoma scan also develop in parts of your body as a flat area that does not look much different from the rest of your normal skin. Areas like the head or neck that are always exposed to the sun are where this type of skin cancer occur though you can find them appearing on the trunk arms and legs. Due to the fact that you can find basal cell carcinoma developing in other hidden places on the body, it is important to examine every area of the body for the symptoms. After examination, if you come across any of these symptoms, then you should meet the doctor for a checkup.

Treatment of Melanoma

Since melanoma (skin cancer) is located on the skin, it is easier to treat than other forms of cancer. There are a number of treatments that can be applied. The widely used treatment is surgery. If it is localized on a small area, that lesion and a bit of the surrounding area can be removed. If it is located on a large area then skin grafting will be done. A test can be conducted to confirm that the disease has not extended to the lymph.

Other treatments used for skin cancer are chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy.

You might be wondering why this article was focused mostly on the melanoma skin cancer and not the others. The reason is because it is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. You are therefore adviced based on this study that if you start seeing any of the above symptoms of the various types of skin cancers, especially the melanoma cancer, kindly meet your doctor and complain.

Prevention of Melanoma

Since melanoma can be caused by uv radiation either from the sun or tanning machines it is possible to prevent the disease. Avoid being in the sun for too long especially between 11 am and 3:00 pm when the intensity of the sun is too high. Wear proper clothing, a sun screen and hat to protect the body from the sun.

This does not mean that one cannot be under the sun. The sun is a vital source of vitamin D. Being under the sun for a short time will not pose any problems.

Apply sun cream before going out in the sun and after every two hours.

Also avoid the use of tanning machines especially persons with the disease.

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