What is melanoma: causes and symptoms

The skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. There are several types, within which we get squamous cell cancer and basal cell cancer, these are the two most common types of skin cancer, but on the other hand we have melanoma, which is not as common as previously mentioned but it is much more dangerous.

Despite this, in recent years there has been a notable increase in the appearance of melanomas and it is estimated that at present, it is the neoplasm that has increased the most in men and the second in women, after carcinoma of the lung

Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer, it originates from mutations inside melanocytes, which are cells located in all tissues of the human body, this explains why it can originate in any organ, although its location the most common is cutaneous, followed by mucous membranes, nodes, and soft tissues.

The main function of these cells is the production of melanin, which is the pigment that gives color to the skin and hair and which also plays an essential role in protecting against the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

What happens during the formation of a melanoma is that due to the mutations inside these cells (melanocytes) the speed of mitosis or division of the cells gets out of control, leading to the formation of a tumor.

Causes of melanoma.

Anyone can suffer from melanoma, it occurs in any ethnic group, but there are risk factors that can increase the chances of suffering from cutaneous melanoma, these factors can be intrinsic, that is, non-modifiable factors that each individual has and extrinsic, which are those risk factors that can be modified or that can be avoided.

  • Family history: That a direct relative, such as a father, mother, children or siblings has suffered at some point any type of skin cancer, not necessarily melanoma.
  • Genetic predisposition: Those individuals who have genes in their DNA that, when activated, for certain reasons send signals to initiate the mutation of said cells.
  • White skin: Although we already mentioned that any ethnic group can be affected by melanoma, it should be noted that people with fair skin tend to be more likely to suffer from it, because they have levels of melanin lower than those of a person with brown skin and therefore protection against ultraviolet rays is less.
  • Sunburns and excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation: It has been shown that this type of rays, produced by the sun and by tanning beds, greatly increase the chances that melanocytes mutate and therefore the appearance of malignant lesions.
  • Presence of excess moles or atypical moles: It is considered that having more than 50 moles on the body is an important risk factor for the appearance of melanoma. The appearance of atypical moles is also a risk factor.
  • Immunodeficiency: People with alterations of the immune system are more prone to the appearance of lesions of this nature.

For these reasons, it is advisable to avoid exposure to ultraviolet rays, use sunscreen with an SPF greater than 15 every day and reapply every two hours.

It is also recommended not to carry out outdoor activities between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, even when the sky is cloudy or the temperature is low, the radiation emitted by solar rays is capable of penetrating the layer ozone and cause skin damage, such as burns and even tanning.

If exposure to the sun is unavoidable during these hours, appropriate clothing should be used, covering the arms, legs and face; And it goes without saying that the use of sunbeds with ultraviolet radiation should be completely avoided.

Melanoma symptoms.

Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body, but as we mentioned earlier, skin lesions are more common, that is, on the skin. In general, this occurs in regions that have more exposure to solar radiation, such as the face, arms, legs and back, this does not mean that the lesions cannot appear in less frequent places such as genitalia and soles of the feet.

The characteristic sign of a malignant lesion is the appearance of a mole with different characteristics from the rest or changes in a pre-existing one.

To identify this type of moles we use the letters A, B, C, D and E in the following way:

  • A – Asymmetry(moles with asymmetric shape, unusual).
  • B – Irregular edges (edges with waves or cuts are characteristic of melanomas).
  • C – Color changes(they are not one color; they have several disorganized shades of dark brown and black in the same lesion).
  • D – Diameter(greater than 6 mm).
  • E – Evolution(Growth or changes in shape over time).

A melanoma can have all the characteristics described above or have only 1 or two of them, so it is recommended that if you suspect the presence of one of these lesions you go to a specialist.

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