Melanoma is the most deadly skin cancer in the world. Each year it causes the deaths of nearly ten thousand Americans.
The cancer first forms in the bottom layer of the epidermis, in skin cells called melanocytes. It then grows and invades the lymphatic system, through which it has the ability to spread to vital organs, killing the victim.
The mutation can be caused by any number of things, including genetic factors, but by far the majority of melanoma cancers are UV related.
Once the cancer is identified, doctors can remove it surgically or fight it with immuno/chemotherapy.
If the melanoma has already become “malignant” and spread around the body it is very hard to cure and most patients last less than a year.
However, it takes the cancer a while to reach this stage. While it is still in the early stages melanoma can be treated, and with relatively little trouble.
How are skin cancers influenced by UV exposure and what are the most effective ways of treating and preventing them? Skin cancers begin when cells in our skin mutate. This is more likely when we expose ourselves to large amounts of UV radiation, which can enter our cells and cause mutations in our DNA. Because the main cause of skin cancer is UV radiation, people closer to the equator and those in more sunny areas of the globe are more likely to develop symptoms. Additionally people with lighter skin tones are more likely to develop skin cancer than those with darker skin, this is because their skin contains less melanin, a pigment that helps block UV radiation.
So what happens when the DNA in our cells mutates? Well mutated cells are unable to carry out the functions that they are supposed to. All they do is take up space and resources that should go to properly functioning cells. In the case of cancer, the mutated cell or cells do not die off like a normal cell and replicate themselves more frequently. This causes cancerous cells to outnumber the normal cells and eventually replace them, creating a tumor, or a buildup of useless cells. If a tumor spreads to an area of the body that is vital to sustaining life, it is possible that the cancer will be fatal. There are many types of skin cancer and each one is different, death usually only occurs during the advanced stages of melanoma.