The ABC Of Melanoma

Most people spot moles on their bodies. While a majority of these darker colored spots are innocuous, those that begin to show signs of modifications can act as precursors to skin cancer known as Melanoma. Read on to get a quick understanding of this deadly disease. 

Acquiring sun-kissed skin is an obsession that leads many Americans to hours of sun-bathing or to tanning beds that guarantee to reproduce the most sought after bronzed look. However, very few people are aware of the heinous side effects of overexposure to UV radiation, one of which is a heightened susceptibility to a skin carcinoma called Melanoma. For each hour in a day there is one Melanoma-related death in the country, a statistic so scary that it should be enough to wake us all up to the life-threatening nature of this disease.

What are Melanoma and What Are Its Common Triggers?

Melanoma occurs when the cells that form the skin start growing in numbers at an atypical rate. Such rapid growth causes the creation of tumors that originate in the cells that synthesize melanin, pigments that determine the color of our skin. 

The most common instigators are:

  1. Prolonged exposure to UVA and UVB radiations either through natural sources like the sun or through artificial sources like tanning machines.
  2. A compromised immune system
  3. Inherited gene mutations
  4. Lighter skin tone
  5. Too many moles

What are the Early Alarm Bells that Point Towards Melanoma?

Alterations in existing moles or an appearance of fresh ones are the initial signs of carcinoma of the skin. Here is how you can differentiate between a Melanoma-related mole and a regular one using the ABCDE theory

  1. A cancerous mole is of an asymmetrical shape as opposed to a regular one that can be split in the middle to form two identical mirror images.
  2. Cancerous moles have a haphazard border as compared to regular moles that have smooth edges.
  3. An abnormal mole tends to display shades of color as compared to a normal mole that is single toned.
  4. Cancerous moles typically have a larger diameter than their regular counterparts.
  5. A melanoma-related mole is ever-changing in physical appearance while a regular mole stays the same over time.

What are the Treatment Options Available?

Keeping in mind several factors including the phase of the condition at the time of detection, your doctor may choose one of the following interventions:

  1. Surgical Procedure to excise the cancerous growth
  2. Immunotherapy to give a boost to the body’s immune mechanism to target cancer cells
  3. Chemotherapy to chemically annihilate the errant cells.
  4. Radiotherapy to target abnormally growing cells using strong rays.

What Can Be Done To Curb Risk Factors?

  1. The most effective way of keeping the specter of melanoma away from you and your family is to prevent prolonged sun exposure. Staying outside in the sun for hours should be avoided.
  2. Using a strong sunscreen throughout the year especially on bare body parts is a must, even more so if you are light-skinned.
  3. If you are going to be out and about in the sun, at least ensure that you are wearing sunglasses and a hat to prevent excessive sunburn.
  4. Keep away from synthetic tanning machines as well as sun lamps. These devices produce both UVA and UVB radiations that increase your risk of melanoma.

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