Melanoma What you should know!
When it comes to Cancer—more than any disease—it is important to be well informed! After all, there are certain things we can prevent! In some cases, prevention may be impossible but when we know the disease, we can be alert to detect it on time and to fight it successfully! In the case of melanoma, there are certain types of prevention I will share with you a little later.
Melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer! It develops in the skin cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin – the pigment that gives the skin its color. Melanoma can also form in the eyes and on rare occasions it can affect internal organs, such as your intestines. The exact cause is unknown. But we do know that limiting exposure to UV rays can reduce the risk of this disease.
Skin cancer rates are increasing in the USA among the Hispanics population. In the last two decades, the incidence of melanoma among Hispanics has increased by nearly 20 percent! In addition, the risk seems to increase among people younger than 40 years of age, especially women.
Melanomas can develop in any part of your body, most commonly in those areas exposed to the sun. In people with a darker skin tone, they can appear on the palms of the hands or even the soles of the feet!
The first signs of melanoma can be:
-Changes to an existing mole.
-Development of new pigmented growth or an unusual aspect of the skin.
It should be noted that it does not always begin as a mole. It can also occur on skin that otherwise looks normal!
Normal vs. Abnormal moles
Normal moles are generally of one color, with even edges and symmetrical. They can be either oval or circular shaped. They are generally less than ¼ of an inch in diameter. Abnormal moles have an irregular or asymmetrical shape. It is uneven in color and larger than ¼ of an inch. Another difference is how it evolves in size or changes color and shape. It can also cause bleeding or itching.
It is important to get a checkup. In general, a dermatologist or skin specialist can map your moles, especially if you have many of them. Get an appointment as soon as possible if you note anything abnormal on your skin.
Sometimes cancer can be detected simply by observing the skin, but the only way to accurately diagnose melanoma is with a biopsy. With this procedure, the mole is removed in part or whole. Then a pathologist analyzes the sample.
Early treatment for melanoma typically includes surgery. Generally speaking, this can be completely removed during the biopsy and does not require additional treatment.
If the melanoma has spread beyond the skin, treatment options may include: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, biological therapy and/or targeted therapy. Everything will depend on the type of melanoma and the state of the same. It should be noted that—in its early stages—it is simple to treat and with positive results! As the cancer progresses, the treatment is more complex due to spreading over other parts of the body.
Factors that may increase the risk of melanoma include:
-Very white or delicate skin. Skins that lack pigmentation tend to be defenseless against UV rays. If you burn easily in the sun, have freckles and blond or red hair you are more at risk!
-Too much exposure to UV light or prior severe sunburns.
-Lots of moles or abnormal moles. Having more than 50 regular moles on your body is an indication of an increased risk of melanoma.
-People with weakened immune systems—such as those who have been subjected to organ transplants—have a higher risk of skin cancer.
How can we prevent it? As I said at the beginning, there are certain things we can do:
-Avoid sun exposure during peak hours (between 10am and 4pm).
-Use sunscreen with high SPF of at least 30 and water resistant. It should be applied every 2 hours.
-Use sunscreen even in winter! You can lower the factor but it must be at least SPF 15.
-Used protective clothing, hats with a wide brim even when you are in the sun. And don’t forget to protect your lips!
– Avoid tanning beds and tanning lamps!
Keep watch over your skin changes and go to a dermatologist at least once a year for a checkup.