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What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a less common form of skin cancer, but generally considered to be the most serious and dangerous. Melanoma generally begins in the skin, but if left untreated, can spread into your lymphatic system, and eventually to other organs such as the lungs, liver, and brain. Luckily, melanoma can be cured if it’s found and treated, and the earlier it is found, the more successful treatment can be. This is why doctors and dermatologists often recommend regular skin checks if you have abnormal looking moles, or a history of Melanoma or skin cancer in your family.

Read more about melanoma and its history

What causes melanoma?

The most common cause of Melanoma is generally considered to be too much sun exposure. There is some debate over whether the problem is...

Cancer is defined as abnormal cells that grow in an uncontrolled way, and in some cases, spread to other areas. Melanoma is the type of cancer when the abnormal cells are Melanocytes – they type of cells that make melanin in your skin. The reality is that every day, cells in your body, including some of your Melanocytes mutate and become abnormal. In fact, it is “normal” to have some abnormal cells in your body. However, normally the abnormal cells die, or your body, recognizing them as abnormal, kills them. In rare cases, however, they don’t die, your body doesn’t recognize them, or something cause many of them to mutate, and that’s when you get a Cancerous growth. Hence, things that either cause normal cells to turn abnormal, or prevent your body from fighting abnormal cells, are most...

The most common symptom of melanoma is a change in a mole, growth, or birthmark making it abnormal looking. Doctors often use the following ABCD rule for examining a mole for the “abnormal” characteristics that can be warning signs of melanoma:

Asymmetry – when one half of the mole is significantly different than the other

Border – irregularity in the border of the mole. For example, the edges can notched, uneven, or blurred.

Color – uneven and non-uniform coloring. Shades of black, brown, and tan can be observed.

Diameter – a mole of large diameter, usually more than 6 millimeters (half a centimeter)

Melanoma can grow in an already existing mole or birthmark, however, they normally grow in skin that did not previously have any other growth. Melanomas can appear anywhere on...

After a melanoma biopsy is performed, and once it is confirmed to be melanoma, there are several systems used for describing how advanced melanoma is (“staging”). These “stages” can inform you as to how serious the condition is, and what type of treatment is best suited for you.

The three main staging systems are(1):

  • The Number Stages (i.e “Stage 1” or “Stage 4”). This system uses three measurements, known as TNM, where T is the Thickness of the melanoma, N describes whether the melanoma has spread to the lymphatic system, and M describes whether the melanoma has spread to other areas of the body. The different combinations of T, N and M ratings are translated into your overall Stage.
  • The Breslow scale, which essentially describes how thick the melanoma is within the...

We can get melanoma through genetic predisposition, decreased immune response, and UV radiation. The most common source of UV radiation is sun exposure.

The simplest steps to reducing the likelihood of melanoma are to avoid long sun exposure. Hats, protective swimwear, like rash guards, and sunscreen are all helpful. It is recommended to wear sunscreen daily for your face.

If you work with UV radiation, then protective clothing and eyewear are necessary.

Taking Vitamin D is highly recommended.

This resources page is a place for people to post information about helpful resources (people, doctors, clinics, books, videos, blogs, forums, etc.) in the battle to fight melanoma.

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