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Key Information About Melanoma

Srikanth strongly believes that prevention is better than cure. He is of the opinion that awareness is a key to prevent diseases.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which occurs when melanocytes mutate and begin to divide uncontrollably.

Around 132,000 new cases of this deadly disease are diagnosed worldwide each year, according to WHO.

Though melanoma accounts for only about 1 percent of skin cancers, it is responsible for more than 90 percent of skin cancer-related deaths.

Melanoma Patient's Skin

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Wikimedia Commons

Causes

Melanoma is caused by a combination of factors, including environmental and genetic factors.

In most cases, this dreaded disease is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds.

Primary melanoma patients with lower T-cell fraction are 2.5 times more likely to have cancer metastasize than patients with higher T-cell fraction.

Patients with inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease are often placed on biologic therapies for treatment.

Questions have been asked about whether long-term biologic treatment, versus conventional systemic therapy treatment, could increase the risk for melanoma.

A systematic review and meta-analysis sought to identify the risk and concluded that biologics may—or may not—increase this risk.

Melanopsin (OPN4) is a light-sensing protein found in skin and retina cells. A study conducted conducted in August 2022 at the University of São Paulo in Brazil suggests that OPN4 can also participate in the development and progression of melanoma.

In experiments with animals and genetically modified cells at the Comparative Physiology of Pigmentation Laboratory belonging to the Institute of Biosciences, research scientists showed that the disease advances more slowly when this protein is not functional. The findings are reported in an article published in Communications Biology, a Springer Nature journal.

Tanning Bed

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Wikimedia Commons

Symptoms

In most patients, melanoma begins with a small, pigmented spot on the skin that starts to change.

Symptoms include unusual moles, lumps, sores, markings, blemishes, or changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels.

The only way to be sure if a mole is melanoma is to have it examined by a dermatologist.

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Prognosis

Most skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they have a chance to spread. However, more advanced cases of melanoma can be fatal. The earlier skin cancer is found and removed, the better your chances for a full recovery.

Diagnosis

Dermatoscopy, which refers to the examination of the skin using skin surface microscopy, is used to diagnose melanoma.

Dermatoscope

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Wikimedia Commons

Treatment

Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy are some treatment options for melanoma.

Melanoma that is found early (stages 0–II or localised melanoma) can generally be treated successfully with surgery.

Being able to quickly detect and properly manage adverse events that arise in patients with melanoma who are receiving immunotherapy is key to improving their experience with treatment.

Understanding how each patient may require different therapies will be important as we personalize melanoma treatment.

— Joshua Arbesman, MD, Dermatologist

Prevention

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Never use tanning bed. Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm.

Research

An inhibitor of the enzyme known as p38α kinase (p38) reduced the spread of melanoma in a mouse model, significantly prolonging survival time.

Survivor Says

"Ok I thought skin cancer, you just cut it off and you move on, and that's not the case,” said Tim Kilraine, an avid golfer who was diagnosed with melanoma by Moffit Cancer Center. “But melanoma, once it gets into your blood system, once it gets into your lymph system it's very aggressive. Extremely aggressive. I mean literally within three months I went from having a mole on my back to having cancer in 15 different places in my body including my kidney's, my lungs, most of my lymph nodes in my body."

Summary

Melanoma is a serious type of skin cancer. Nobody knows exact cause of melanoma, but many have linked it to mutations in some genes.

Risk factors usually include age, smoking and infections.

Diagnosis involves taking a biopsy of the suspected tissue and performing further testing, like MRI.

Effective treatment for melanoma is surgery to remove the melanoma, followed by chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2020 Srikanth R

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