Categorized | Skin Care

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Melanomas – Visible and Invisible

Melanoma is essentially skin cancer. If detected early

enough, it can be cured in ninety-five percent of the

cases. However, it can also be fatal if allowed to run its

course. Melanomas can be almost invisible in some cases, so

a cursory examination is not effective in some cases.

Hidden melanomas are, fortunately, relatively rare.

All melanomas are formed from cells that produce pigment.

These are called melanocytes. So the cancer can develop

wherever there is pigmentation in the body. Hidden

melanomas can occur in difficult to detect parts of the

body, hence the need to do a thorough check annually.

An example of an unusual location where a hidden melanoma

can develop is the eye (intraocular melanoma). So the eyes

should be included in the check-up. An effective

preventative would be to use high quality sunglasses with

one-hundred percent UV protection. If you have prescription

glasses, photochromic lenses with UV protection are

preferable.

It is useful to be aware that melanomas can also develop in

areas that are not exposed to sun rays. These include the

palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, in-between toes,

under the nails, and on the scalp! Even harder to detect

areas that the cancer can develop in are the genitalia,

anus, and mucosal lining of the mouth.

A potentially dangerous phenomenon is a “halo nevus”. This

manifests as a white halo around a mole or brown spot. It

appears that the mole or spot is shrinking, but a more

lethal process is underway – the melanoma is actually

digging deeper leaving less of itself on the surface.

HOW TO DETECT A MELANOMA:

It is of vital importance that you do a body skin check

every month, looking for brown spots in all the areas

outlined above. What you should also be looking for are new

spots or moles, or any changes to existing ones over a time

period of a few months. Potentially dangerous growths are

those that have asymmetrical ragged borders, or are six

millimeters or more in diameter. Another danger signal is

when growths disappear and reappear, or growths that bleed

easily. Melanomas under the nails usually occur in the

thumbs and large toes, and appear as black or brown

coloured streaks.

Possible symptoms of hidden melanomas, such as in the mouth

and esophagus, are inexplicable bleeding from the nose,

genitalia or urinary tract, throat pain and difficulty

swallowing, and a tightness in the esophageal area.

In addition to your personal monthly skin check, it is

strongly recommended that you have an annual examination

conducted by a qualified dermatologist.

HIGH RISK CANDIDATES:

Melanomas can develop in anybody, but the following are at

a higher risk:

Those who have had a previous skin cancer.

Those with a family history of skin cancer.

Those with several abnormal appearing moles (dysplastic nevi).

Fair skinned people with light eyes, who easily sunburn.

Blacks, and dark skinned people, are susceptible to under

the nail melanomas (subungual), and mucosal melanoma.

PREVENTION:

Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, but don’t be obsessive

about it. Remember, sunlight stimulates the formation of

vitamin D, which is important for the body. Conduct

frequent checks on yourself, especially if you fall into

the high risk group. And, studies show that if you exercise

regularly, you gain protection from melanoma. Researchers

think that this might be because exercise enhances a

process called UVB-induced apoptosis, in which the body

kills sun-damaged cells.

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