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Melanoma – types and how to recognize it

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28.06.2021

Melanoma – types and how to recognize it?

Melanoma is the most aggressive and dangerous skin cancer that metastasizes quickly. Timely diagnosis and treatment are crucial to the prognosis of the disease. This makes early detection of alarming symptoms of melanoma essential.

Types of melanoma

Melanoma is a skin tumor which arises in melanocytes that have become cancerous. It is usually brownish or black in color. It can develop from an existing mole as well as directly on the skin. Types of melanoma:

  • Superficial. Less aggressive type. It develops from a mole. It usually occurs in places that are most often exposed to sunlight;
  • Lentigo maligna. This is the least dangerous melanoma. The disease occurs mostly in elderly people, develops slowly, and has a better prognosis. It does not develop from an existing mole;
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma. It is the most common type in dark-skinned races and the rarest in Caucasians. Aggressive and dangerous, it has a poor prognosis. The parts of the body on which it most often appears are the palms, feet, and under the nails;
  • Nodular melanoma. An aggressive type, penetrating rapidly into the dermis and leading to early metastases.

What are the risk factors for melanoma?

  • Fair skin. Fair-skinned people are more at risk of developing melanoma than people with dark skin;
  • Excessive sunbathing without using products with a UV factor and multiple sunburns. They may have happened a long time ago – in childhood, for example. The skin has a memory, and even sunburns from decades ago can become a key factor in the development of melanoma;
  • Heredity. In some cases, melanoma can be inherited. Make sure you visit your dermatologist often if there are cases of the disease among your family members and blood relatives;
  • A large number of atypical moles. They indicate accumulation of melanocytes and increased risk of melanoma;
  • Immunosuppression. A suppressed immune system is a risk factor for the onset of the disease.

How to recognize melanoma?

If you notice a drastic change in the size and shape of your mole, pain or bleeding, a newly formed “mole” that looks unnatural and is increasing in size, see your dermatologist. Undergo a preventive examination at least once a year and in the meantime, watch out for the following signs of melanoma that distinguish it from a normal mole:

  • Asymmetry;
  • Notched or ragged borders;
  • Uneven color, a mix of several colors – for example, brown and black in one mole;
  • Large diameter and tendency to grow;
  • Change in the appearance of the mole – change in color, shape, size.

Why is melanoma so dangerous?

Melanoma grows rapidly and aggressively into the dermis, which drastically increases the risk of early metastases. Melanoma cells can spread through the lymphatic vessels and reach the lymph nodes and distant organs in the body. Distant metastases can occur early and involve vital organs, which can be fatal.

Prevention and early diagnosis significantly increase the chances of recovery. Building a habit to see a dermatologist twice a year is a guarantee for early detection of dangerous skin changes and early diagnosis of cancer. Another factor complicating the early detection of melanoma is its location. Although less common, melanoma can form on the scalp under the hair, on the mucous membranes or under the nails, which makes it difficult to detect. During an initial examination, specialists may notice changes that need to be monitored or further clarified.

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