According to the AARP, one in six Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. While some of these cancers are non-threatening, Melanoma can be fatal. Roughly three-quarters of the deaths attributed to skin cancer are caused by this variant. A lot of people live with this silent killer on a daily basis not really paying attention to the time-bomb that is attached to their bodies. Without treatment, this simple blemish could result in grave consequences.
While Melanoma is predominant in adults, people of all ages have been known to develop this type of skin cancer. Age plays a role as the risk of development begins to grow with each passing year. For Caucasians living near the equator, this risk is compounded as UV radiation is prevalent in the area and the pigmentation of skin doesn’t protect from such instances well. This doesn’t mean you should hide under a rock or never walk outside. There are measures you can take to reduce the chances of suffering from Melanoma.
Causes of Melanoma
Cancers and tumors are caused by damage to your DNA at the cellular level. This damage can be caused by genetics and foreign intrusions into your body that causes a cell to malfunction. These cells can grow abnormally and behave in manners that were not intended by the body.
1. Genetics – Many times, we are predisposed to particular ailments through no fault of our own. Diseases and cancer risk agents can be passed down through our genes throughout our family tree. Unfortunately, there is very little we can do in order to protect ourselves from a genetic disposition. Melanoma is one of those cancers that can be genetically passed down. This doesn’t mean you’ll contract Melanoma throughout your life, but you will be more susceptible to this form of cancer.
2. Excessive Sunlight – Excessive exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun can damage the cells in your body causing them to mutate into Melanoma. Severe sunburns as a child have been known to cause this skin cancer later in life. Applying sun screen can reduce the damage to the skin cells, but you should continue to monitor the amount of time you spend outdoors in direct sunlight.
3. Other Radiation – Theoretically, any radiation that can damage the skin cells can cause an episode of Melanoma. Some studies have attributed excessive tanning bed sessions as a possible cause for an outbreak to occur. The damage to the cells has to be as such to cause them to mutate in order to spread throughout the body. Simple damage such as a knife or burning yourself on the stove doesn’t necessarily cause the same kind of damage that this cancer thrives on.
The Symptoms of Melanoma
A Melanoma on an individual is fairly easy to spot in most cases. However, they can sometimes be almost indistinguishable from harmless moles at first. A skin blemish doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a Melanomic growth beginning to form. As there are a variety of skin conditions, you shouldn’t panic if you are developing a blemish of some kind on your epidermis.
1. To the Trained Eye – As there are no blood tests that can detect Melanoma, visual diagnosis from an experienced professional is treated as the best method of detection. As Melanoma’s are usually multiple colored in origin, they are easy to detect from common harmless moles that may form on your body. The edges of the cancer are irregular and can be reminiscent of a topographical view of an island. Like the jagged shores of a beach surrounding a mass of land in the middle of water, a Melanoma has similar edges among the sea of skin surrounding it.
2. It is Evolving – Unlike moles, Melanoma continues to grow and doesn’t stop. It can spread rapidly through your blood stream which is one of the reasons why it can be so fatal. Normally, a mole will get to a certain size and stop forming. A blemish that continues to enlarge, become darkened with various colors, and looks like a burnt piece of cheese should be taken seriously.
3. Large in Comparison – Generally speaking, blemishes that have grown to the size of 6-millimeters in diameter should be treated as a serious risk. Moles don’t normally grow to be much larger than this but a Melanoma will. You shouldn’t panic if you have a blemish this size on your body, but you should still consult your physician to ensure that it’s not going to form into something that is life threatening.
Treatment of Melanoma
In most cases, Melanoma can be removed by physicians safely without lasting effects as long as the problem was detected prior to the cancer spreading to other parts of your body, specifically the lymph nodes. The longer Melanoma continues to thrive on your body unchecked, the lower are your chances for survival. However, there are other methods that can help increase your odds after surgery if it has spread throughout your body.
1. Surgical Removal – By removing the Melanoma and a small portion of surrounding tissue, the cancer can be removed from your body. As it is difficult to ascertain if the cancer has spread or not, a biopsy of your lymph nodes may be necessary to make sure the cancer is localized. Unfortunately, it is near impossible to determine if the surgery is a complete success as cellular damage and mutations causing Melanomas are near impossible to spot until they present themselves.
2. Radiation – Different forms of radiation can do different things within our body. It’s the UV radiation from the sun that can mutate the skin cells in order to create Melanomas, but radiation therapy usually follows surgery in order to improve the chances of complete removal by killing cancerous cells.
3. Immunotherapy – Immunotherapy agents including interleukin-2 promote lasting healing by making your lymphocytes able to attack the cancerous growth using white blood cells. Interleukin-2 would be like reinforcing the defense of your body to promote a higher form of warfare against foreign aggressors. Without continued invasive surgeries, immunotherapy has been successful in helping patience of all kinds heal from a variety of cancers and sicknesses.
When it comes to protecting yourself from various cancers and diseases, it’s a continuous battle for being in prime condition. In the case of Melanoma, there are ways you can help decrease the chances of your exposure. However, lathering yourself up with lotion isn’t a guarantee that the damage to your cells hasn’t happened or will be repaired. Genetics can work against you, and all that you can do is live the best way you can by making healthy decisions.