Melanoma: Risk, Prevention, and Treatment for Melanoma
‘Melanoma is a malignant tumor of melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells that produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin’ - as mentioned onWikipedia, Melanoma. Melanoma appears on the skin but it can also appear internally like stomach or the eyes. The major cause of skin cancer is exposure to the sun and prevention definitely sounds better than cure, hence we consulted oncologist, Dr. J.B. Sharma with the Action Cancer Hospital to help you prevent this deadly condition.
Who is prone to developing Melanoma?
Dr. J.B. Sharma sets the facts straight on skin cancer, “Melanoma occurs more frequently in the fair skinned, but rarely may develop in people with darker skin as well. Although everyone is at some risk for melanoma, but increased risk depends on several factors.”
Factors that contribute to Melanoma
Sun exposure – “Both UVA and UVB rays are dangerous to the skin, and can induce skin cancer, including melanoma. Blistering sunburns in early childhood increase risk, but cumulative exposure also may be a factor.
Moles – There are two kinds of moles; normal moles or "beauty marks" that appear in the first few decades of life in almost everyone, and atypical moles that can be precursors to melanoma. But regardless of type, the more moles you have, the greater will be your risk for melanoma.
Skin type – As with all skin cancers, people with fairer skin (who often have lighter hair and eye color as well) are at increased risk.
Personal history – Approximately 10% of people with melanoma have a family history of melanoma. Therefore, it is recommended that close relatives of a person with melanoma have their skin examined routinely.
Weakened Immune System – Compromised immune systems as the result of chemotherapy, an organ transplant, excessive sun exposure, and diseases such as HIV/AIDS or lymphoma can increase your risk of melanoma.”
Can sun block and sunscreen protect you from skin cancer?
We use sunscreen to avoid tanning and skin damage, can it protect us from skin cancer? Dr. Sharma tells you the importance of sun block for your skin, “Yes, sun blocks and sunscreens can help prevent skin cancer, especially those that reflect, absorb or scatter both types of ultraviolet radiation. Reducing exposure to UV radiation has been advocated as a method to reduce the incidence of this malignancy. Studies have shown that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can induce tumors in animals that sunscreen can help prevent this. One must apply it liberally, repeatedly, and to all sun- exposed parts of the skin to prevent sunburn. But sun protection is more than just sunscreens. By understanding sun protection, one may be able to reduce the risk for skin cancer caused by UV radiation.”
Ways to prevent skin cancer
The oncologist suggests ways you can avoid the development of melanoma:
- “To prevent your chances of melanoma, avoid sun tanning and tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
- Consider using a sunless self-tanning product to simulate the appearance of having been in the sun, but continue to use sunscreen.
- Wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.
- Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun's rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Be extra cautious near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase chances of sunburn.
- Meanwhile, lack of sun exposure can lead to vitamin deficiency as skin in presence of sun light makes vitamin D. Hence to overcome this deficiency, one should increase the intake of vitamin D through a healthy diet.”
Treatment for Melanoma
“Generally, melanoma is treated by surgery alone” says Dr. Sharma. “When treating early melanomas, surgeons only remove 1 centimeter of the normal tissue around the melanoma. Only adequate surgery is sufficient. Deeper and more advanced cancers may need more extensive surgery. For advanced disease, such as when the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body, treatments like immunotherapy are sometimes recommended.”
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images