What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer and it begins in skin cells called melanocytes. Clusters of melanocytes and tissue form moles, also known as a nevus/nevi. Melanoma happens when melanocytes become malignant. Malignant tumors are life-threatening and can damage nearby tissue. When melanoma starts in the skin, it is called cutaneous melanoma. Melanoma may also occur in the eye(ocular melanoma), the digestive tract or other areas where melanocytes are found.
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What causes melanoma?

Scientists think that melanoma is caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. UV rays can damage DNA. If the damage is severe, skin cells can grow in an uncontrolled way of cancer cells. There are two kinds of UV rays: UVA and UVB. Melanoma can also be inherited. People with close relatives who had malignant melanoma may have inherited a damaged gene that increases their risk for melanoma. Therefore, it is essential for them to have regular skin checks and examinations.

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What are the symptoms?

Usually, melanoma in an early stage can be found when an existing mole changes slightly in size, shape or color of an existing mole. Melanoma may also be a new mole that is black and abnormal. It may also itch. In later melanoma, the texture of the mole may change. For instance, it could be hard and lumpy. It can also itch, ooze or bleed. But it usually does not cause pain.

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How can melanoma be treated?

Most cases of melanoma can be treated by surgery. Surgery involves removing the tumor and nearby tissue to lower the risk of remaining cancer cells in the area. In some cases, surgery can remove all cancer cells and no other treatment is needed. Sometimes, in advanced cases, other methods of treatment are used such as chemotherapy. Chemotherapy includes the use of specialized drugs to kill the cancer cells. In melanoma, chemotherapy is often given in a pill or injected into the body. There are side effects such as nausea but these are usually mild and can be controlled.

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References:


http://www.medicinenet.com/melanoma/article.htm
http://www.ehealthmd.com/library/melanoma/MEL_causes.html
http://www.ehealthmd.com/library/melanoma/MEL_treatment.html#chemo

By Sharon Leung 9.3