Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, has caused DNA mutations in skin cells. This causes uncontrolled growth. The UV rays of the sun and tanning beds can cause DNA damage to your skin cells. Some of the damage is repaired by your immune system, but not all. The DNA damage that remains can cause mutations that lead to skin cancer. Other factors can also increase the risk of melanoma. These include genetics, family history, skin color or type, freckling, and the number of moles in the body.
Knowing the causes of melanoma can help you detect and treat it early, when it is most effective to treat.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma, a form of skin cancer, occurs when melanocytes (the cells responsible for the skin’s brown or tan color) begin to grow out of control. Cancer is when cells begin to grow outof control. Cancer can spread from one part of the body to another. Learn more about how cancer spreads and how it begins.
Melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancers. Melanoma can spread to other areas of the body and is therefore more serious than any other types of skin cancers.
What Does Melanoma Look Like?
Melanoma often begins with a change in the appearance, size, shape, and feel of an existing mole. Melanoma can also be seen as a new color on the skin.
The ABCDE rule describes early melanoma features:
- Asymmetry is when one half doesn’t match the other.
- Unusual border. Borders that are irregular in shape may be ragged, notched or blurred. The pigment can spread to the skin.
- Uneven color. There may be shades of brown, black, or tan. You may also see areas of blue, white, gray, red or pink.
- Diameter The size of the tumor will change, but it is usually increasing. Although melanomas may be small, most are at least 6 millimeters in width (or about 1/4 inch).
- It is evolving. Over the last few weeks, or months, the mole has been changing.
Protect Your Skin
Protect your skin from UV radiation by using sunscreen or tanning beds. Increased melanoma risk has been linked to UV radiation. Children who aren’t protected from the sun tend to have more moles.
- Avoid peak sun times. The sun’s rays in North America are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. You can schedule outdoor activities at other times of day, even in winter or on cloudy days.
- All year, use sunscreen. Even on cloudy days, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside. Broad-spectrum sunscreens with at least 15 SPF are recommended. It should be applied generously, and you should reapply every 2 hours if you are swimming or sweating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you use a broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
- Cover up. Protective clothing such as sunglasses, broad-brimmed caps, long sleeves, and other protective clothing, can help protect you from damaging UV rays. Consider clothing made from fabric that has been specially treated to block ultraviolet radiation.
- Avoid using tanning beds and lamps. Avoid tanning lamps and beds that emit UV rays. This can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.