Understanding Melanoma

Posted On Dec 27, 2019

Department of Dermatology

Manipal Hospitals

Melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer and is increasing faster than any other cancer type. It develops in the Melanocytes that produce melanin, a pigment responsible for giving the skin its colour. Melanoma can also develop in the eyes and internal organs such as intestines.

Risk factors of Melanoma

People under the age of 40 years are at a greater risk of developing Melanoma. According to experts, sun exposure appears to increase the risk of developing Melanoma. Some of the risk factors that can increase the chances of developing Melanoma are:

  • Fair skin, red or blond hair, and green or blue eyes

Fair skin, red or blond hair, and green or blue eyes means you have less melanin pigment in your skin i.e. you have less protection from harmful UV radiation. Hence, people with fair skin are more at risk of developing Melanoma than people with darker complexion.

  • A history of being in the sun a lot

One or more severe sunburns can increase your risk of Melanoma.

  • A family history of Melanoma

If a close relative – such as a parent or sibling – has had melanoma, you have a greater chance of developing Melanoma, too.

  • Moles

Having more than 45 moles in your body indicates an increased risk of developing Melanoma.

  • Weakened immune system

People with weakened immune system are also at risk of developing Melanoma.

Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

The most common sign of Melanoma is a dark skin spot. It may appear anywhere on the body, especially in the sun exposure areas such as the face, back, chest, arms and legs. However, it can also occur in the areas that are not much exposure to the sun such as palms of the hands, nail beds and scalps. Dark skin people are more at risk of developing Melanoma in hidden areas.

A mole that bleeds, or has a hard surface may also indicate a Melanoma. Few other signs of Melanoma that are related to moles are:

  • Irregular borders
  • Different colour or shades of skin near a mole
  • A mole that has a diameter larger than 6mm i.e. larger than a pencil eraser
  • Asymmetric moles – one side looks different from the other
  • Change in shape, size or colour of a mole

Prevention of Melanoma

To reduce the risk of Melanoma, experts strongly suggest to:

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are more intense i.e. between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Try not to schedule any outdoor activities during this time. It is necessary to avoid sun when the sun’s rays are intense enough to cause sunburns and tans that can increase the risk of Melanoma.
  • Avoid tanning lamps and beds as they emit UV rays, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • Wear sunscreen year-round. However, sunscreens cannot block all harmful UV radiations. But they play a major role in overall sun protection.
  • Sunscreens doesn’t provide complete UV rays protection. Hence it is necessary to wear protective clothing.
  • Wear sunglasses that can help block both types of UV radiation – UVA and UVB rays.
  • Examine your skin on a regular basis for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, bumps, freckles and birthmarks.
Understanding Melanoma - Manipal Blogs