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Skin cancer is characterized by abnormal anomalous cell growth on the skin and when these cells start to rapidly multiply and their division is no longer controlled by the body’s immune system, they eventually turn into malignant growths. There are mainly three kinds of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma being the most haphazard of them since it grows and spreads at a much faster rate than the former types.

Melanoma can at first be characterized as a mole which eventually changes in asymmetry, shape, size and color with time. The prevalence of melanoma has almost tripled in the past 20 years in the white population and it is estimated that 1:40 persons in the white population will contract the disease if precautious measures are not followed. Some of the factors which may increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma include:
  • Childhood sun exposure - children who had one or a series of serious sunburns or severe blistering during childhood are at bigger risk development later on.
  • Fair skin.
  • A weakened immune system.
  • Inheritance of defective genes, with even minimal sun exposure may play a role in developing melanoma during adulthood.
  • A person with more many moles (more than 50) in the body are also at increased risk of developing melanoma.
However, the number one factor for contracting melanoma is by extensive exposure to the sun and to its ultraviolet rays (emitted as UVA and UVB rays) in which a person’s age and history plays an important role as the deciding factor.
Skin cancer is easily diagnosed by performing a simple biopsy of the skin. Your doctor may take a piece from the side, if the specimen shows to be positive for malignancy, you may chose from several options:
  • Surgery – A surgical removal of the melanoma is often the number one choice for early detection. Once it is spread to the lymphnodes there is a 50% chance of survival, whereas if the melanoma metastasizes and spreads to farther areas of the body, the chances of survival are down to 30%.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation approaches – Are either given by powerful drugs (chemotherapy) or given in high voltage X-rays (radiation) in order to kill the cells and are considered as second hand approaches when the melanoma is hard to reach, or other situations when the patient is unable to go through surgery.
  • Photodynamic therapy – Is used by taking a drug that travels to the cancer tissue and is activated by a laser light that kills the cells and not the surrounding tissue. This therapy is used for hard to reach places and even used to treat retinal cells of the eyes and acne.
Limiting exposure to the sun and taking protective measures when doing so, will tremendously lower the risks of developing skin cancer. Melanoma is easily treated upon early detection by a biopsy and surgical removal before there are any chances of it dispersing in the body.