Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. In fact, it is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. The cancer growth occurs in the melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of the skin. Typically, melanoma occurs in the skin, but can also occur in other parts of the body, such as mouth, intestine, eye and so on. This disease manifests mostly in the lower extremities in women, while it’s more common on the back of men. Melanoma can also develop from moles and might present with changes in size, irregular edges, change in color, and the breakdown of the skin. The primary cause of this disease is exposure to excess ultraviolet radiations, especially in people with a low amount of skin pigment. These radiations might be from the sun, or from other sources such as a tanning device. Melanoma that develops from moles often has hereditary connections, which is usually passed from generations to generations. In addition, the immune system also plays a role in the development of this disease. People with the weak immune system, are more prone to develop melanoma. Diseases such as Xeroderma pigmentosum also increases the risk of developing the disease. Some of the ways of preventing this disease are by making use of sunscreen and avoiding excess exposure to ultraviolet radiations. This disease is typically treated by surgery. The disease would have a good prognosis if it has not spread to other parts of the body. In cases where cancer has spread to other parts of the body, special therapies, such as biologic, radiation, immunotherapy can be done. Exosomes are one of the potential ways of treating this disease.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma?
This medical condition can occur in any part of the body, although it has a predilection for the skin. Parts exposed to the sun, have a possibility of being affected by melanoma. However, this disease can also occur in parts that don’t receive as much sun exposure. Example of such places include the feet, sole, fingernail, and even the palms of the hand. The earliest sign and symptom of the hands are;
- An alteration in the existing mole
- The appearance of a pigmented growth on the skin.
The other early signs of this disease include;
- Asymmetry: Melanoma is usually asymmetrical.
- Borders: The growth typically has irregular edges and uneven corners.
- Colour: They might also present with different colors. They don’t usually exist in one color.
- Diameter: The diameter of the growth is usually greater than 6mm, and might be as big as the size of an eraser.
- Progression: Melanoma grows over time. It’s usually not static, but it keeps evolving.
There is the nodular melanoma, which is the most severe and life-threatening form of melanoma. This type of melanoma usually grows above the skin surface, and it’s rigid in texture, and firm to touch. Also, it keeps evolving and growing.
What Are the Causes Of Melanoma?
Melanoma is caused by a damage to the DNA, which occurs mostly from the exposure to ultraviolet radiations. Genetics is also an important factor. Below are some of the causes of melanoma;
- Ultraviolet radiation: Exposure to a huge amount of ultraviolet radiations is one of the most common causes of melanoma. In addition to this, people who make use of tanning beds have a significant risk of developing the disease. Melanoma occurs in the lower extremities in women, while on the back in men.
- Genetics: This is also one of the most important causes of melanoma. The mutations in genes can be passed from parents to their children. These mutations increase the risk of developing the disease. An example of a gene that could lead to this disease is the MC1R gene. In addition, people with fair skin, have less amount of melanin, as compared to dark skinned people. This explains why melanoma is more common in fair-skinned
What Are The Risk Factors Of Melanoma?
Below are some of the factors that increase the risk of developing melanoma.
- Type of skin: As mentioned earlier, people with less melanin have a higher risk of developing melanoma. This is why melanoma is more prevalent in Caucasians. However, this disease also occurs in Hispanics and black people.
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiations: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiations, especially from the sun, and other sources such as tanning beds, increases the risk of developing melanoma.
- Family history: Those with a relative that has melanoma have a high risk of developing the disease. It’s important to go for regular check-ups if you’re in this kind of situation.
- Moles: An individual with more than 50 moles on the body has a high risk of melanoma.
- Immune system: the Immune system has an important role to play in the development of melanoma. People with a weak immune system, are at a higher risk of developing melanoma.
How To Prevent Melanoma?
- Avoid prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation: This is important for people that live in places with strong sun radiations. A good and simple way of doing this is by avoiding sun radiations. You can do this by staying indoors when it’s hot.
- Wear sunscreen: Sunscreen helps to filter out dangerous ultraviolet radiations. It also helps to filter out the radiations that could lead to the development of melanoma.
- Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds produce a lot of dangerous ultraviolet radiations, which can lead to the development of melanoma.
How Is Melanoma Currently Treated?
Early stage melanoma can be treated by surgery. This would be efficient if cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. However, in cases where the melanoma has metastasized, then other treatment procedures would be recommended. This would usually include chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and so on.
Stem Cell Therapy And Melanoma
Researchers have successfully isolated a melanoma cancer stem cell that is responsible for the growth of cancer. Studies are still being done on how to eliminate and suppress this cancer stem cell.
Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.melanoma.org/understand-melanoma/what-is-melanoma [Accessed 28 Feb. 2018].
Arenberger, P. (2010). Current approaches in melanoma screening. Melanoma Research, 20, p.e17.
Bauer, J. (2010). Molecular epidemiology of melanoma. Melanoma Research, 20, p.e8.
Varum, S. and Sommer, L. (2013). Generating melanocytes from human pluripotent stem cells. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research, 26(5), pp.608-610.Get More Stem Cell Information at iSTEMCELL