Melanoma: What is it?

Author: Belinda Lin

Editors: Ken Saito and Peggy Yang

Have you ever seen a mole on your skin change color? This might be a sign of melanoma, one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. Skin cancer is a common cancer, affecting people all around the world. When human skin is overexposed to UV radiation, the DNA within the skin alters and can cause skin cells to grow out of control. This becomes a pressing issue, since each hour, two people in the United States die from skin cancer.

Melanoma is a far deadlier variation of skin cancer. Since melanoma can spread to other parts of the body, this can become a detrimental threat the longer it is left untreated. Symptoms of melanoma include brownish dark spots, small lesions with irregular borders, and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue, or blue-black. Changes in moles’ shapes, size, or color may also be an indicator of melanoma, however, only 20 to 30 percent of melanomas are found in people who have had moles, while 70 to 80 percent of melanomas are found in people with normal skin.

Many risk factors of this deadly skin disease include tanning, getting sunburns, having atypical moles, getting too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation, being photosensitive. The risk of melanoma also depends on genes. Having less pigment in your skin also means less protection against UV radiations which puts you at more of a risk of developing melanoma. One study in the UK found that about 86 percent of melanomas can be attributed to UV radiation exposure from the sun. A few ways to decrease your skin cancer risk include the use of sunscreen (preferably with an SPF of 30 or up), seeking shade, using protective window films, eating healthy, and getting skin examinations.

As society moves forward, the number of melanoma cases is expected to increase by 5.8 percent, and deaths from melanoma are going to be on the rise as well with a 4.8 percent increase. As for the last decade, the number of melanoma cases rose 44 percent each year. In people from the ages 15 to 39, men are 55 percent more likely to die of this disease than women of the same age group. Many studies show that melanoma is more common in men than in women. A study concluded that there was a 42 percent increase in the number of male melanoma cases compared to female cases this year.

In many of these cases, there are simple ways to prevent skin cancer. There are many alternatives to typical outdoor activities like indoor tanning, tanning towels, or spray tans. Although it may not sound nearly as fun, it lowers your exposure to dangerous skin-cancer causing radiation.

Citations:

“Melanoma.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 10 Mar. 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-

conditions/melanoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20374884

“Basic Information About Skin Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for

Disease Control and Prevention, 9 Apr. 2020,

www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/index.htm.

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