Melanocytes are cells that produce pigment. Melanoma develops from these cells.

There are several recognized and suspected causes of melanoma, but it can appear in people who have none of the risk factors. The most common area melanomas are found are the cheeks. All genders are susceptible to this form of cancer, but men develop it in the neck and head twice as often as women.

  • Some of the usual causes are tanning, whether from natural sunlight or tanning bulbs and beds, radiation exposure, or repeated sunburns in that past that blistered.
  • People who have been exposed to vinyl chloride may be vulnerable as well.

Other Risk Factors

Some genetic factors are linked to this type of skin cancer are blonde or red hair, blue and green eyes, and a light complexion that will not darken or easily tan with sun exposure. People that have skin that sunburns quickly, moles, and freckle easily are at a higher risk. Even people with darker skin are susceptible to melanoma.

A family history and a weakened immune system may put a person in the high-risk category. An Immunocompromised individual should be alert for any skin changes.

Melanoma Symptoms

Visible symptoms of melanoma are a change in a mole. An existing mole that changes in sizes, is discolored, or has edges that become blurry or jagged, are typically warning signals. Coloring changes or spreading colors in mole, such as blues, whites, and reds are also a concern. Another visible sign is a new mole, sore, or growth.

The ABCDEs was created by the American Cancer Society. It is a simple reminder of what to look for on your skin.

  • A: Asymmetry, or a mole that grows unevenly.
  • B: Borders, which means a mole that spreads beyond its natural shape.
  • C: Colors. Any discoloration, whether it be fading or whitening to darkening are possible signals.
  • D: Diameter. A mole that is larger than 6mm across needs investigating.
  • E: Evolving. Any change, such as a rash or skin that won’t heal should be addressed.

Warning signs are itching, swelling, and pain or tenderness around a mole or growth. Any bleeding, oozing, or a mole that becomes scaly should be investigated.

Diagnosing Melanoma

A physical examination will be the first stage of diagnosis. If the changing moles or growths are around the lymph nodes, the nodes will be palpated. Palpating the area helps detect firmness or enlargement, which are possible symptoms of the disease spreading to the lymph nodes. Cancer can spread via the lymphatic system, blood vessels, and tissue.

During the initial exam, it is essential for the patient to disclose any family history of skin cancer, past sun exposure, artificial and nature, and work environments. Give the most detailed timeline of when the change was first noticed, and any physical systems.

Performing a biopsy on the growths is the most effective way to diagnose melanoma. A biopsy will help determine density and severity of the growth. Other tools used in diagnosing are PET scans, CT scans, and blood work.