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Melanoma – the most dangerous skin cancer

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There are three types of skin cancer:

Melanoma is the least common skin cancer, but it is the most dangerous and causes the most skin cancer-related deaths. It begins in the melanin-producing cells in the skin’s epidermis (its top layer). Melanin is a pigment, and gives skin its colour. Melanoma can spread to neighbouring cells at a rapid speed, creating malignant cancer cells in other parts of the body. So, it is important to detect melanoma early.

Causes:

The melanin produced by cells (called melanocytes) protects the skin from sun damage.

The less melanin the cells produce, the fairer the skin and the more prone to cell damage. So, fair-skinned people are more at risk of contracting melanoma or another type of skin cancer. People living in areas with a higher level of UV radiation – in places along the earth’s equator, for example – are also at a higher risk.

Symptoms:

Melanoma appears in the form of a mole, which can either develop suddenly or grow out from within an existing one. It can appear anywhere on the skin, but is often found around the hip and shoulder area. There is also a tendency for men to develop melanoma around the neck and head area and women on the lower legs.

Consult a doctor if your mole:

Or if the following appears on your skin:

Treatment:

The treatment of melanoma depends on various factors, such as the location and size of the tumour, the patient’s general health, the stage of the melanoma (whether it has spread to other parts of the body etc), and whether ulceration occured in its primary stages.

The most common treatments include:

Prevention:

Click here for more detailed information on skin cancer and how to check yourself.

Celebrities who have suffered with skin cancer or melanoma include reggae legend Bob Marley, Melanie Griffith and singer Elizabeth Taylor.

Image attribution: Wikimedia:  File:Melanoma.jpg, File:Malignant melanoma (1) at thigh Case 01.jpg

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