More options within reach for treatment of melanoma skin cancers

The best approach to melanoma is prevention. The sun’s rays and tanning beds are the most common sources of ultraviolet radiation. Unprotected exposure to UV radiation damages the cells that give skin its color. As melanocytes grow abnormally, clusters of cancerous cells form.

Excess UV exposure from tanning beds and sunlight are responsible for 99 percent and 95 percent of all non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers respectively. Melanoma commonly develops on sun-exposed areas of the body, but the genetically and environmentally predisposed people can develop cancers on areas that never see the sun, such as the soles of the feet.

There are four types of melanomas:

  • Superficial spreading, the most common melanoma typically found on the trunk, legs, back
  • Lentigo maligna, often develops on the arms, face, ears
  • Acral lentiginous, a rarer type that can develop among the darker-skinned and on the feet, palms, under the nails
  • Nodual, the rarest melanoma typically first appears as a black bump on the trunk, legs, arms, scalp

Most skin cancers can be cured, but the importance of early detection can’t be overstated.

The 5-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent. After cancer has spread to the lymph nodes near the primary tumor region, or spread to distant areas such as the lungs, the 5-year survival rate drops to 63 percent and 16 percent respectively.

Proper sun protection and avoidance is the first line of defense, following by self-checks and professional skin examinations.

Red flags may surface during skin checks, such as moles or growths that appear asymmetrical, with jagged borders, or boast many colors. Spots that are larger in diameter than a pencil eraser or those that evolve in color, shape, size and “behavior” (sudden itching, bleeding) are cause for suspicion.

A sample of a suspicious growth can tell Arta Dermatology 2 things: If cancer is present and the type of cancer present. Further tests determine the stage of cancer. Accurate diagnosis is vital to arrive at a treatment with the best chance of recovery.

 

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