What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of cancer, most often of the skin. It occurs in melanocytes – the cells that produce the pigment melanin that colors the skin, hair and eyes. These cells also make moles, or nevi. Having moles can be a risk factor for melanoma, but it is important to remember that most moles DO NOT become melanoma.
Unlike other cancers, most melanomas can often be seen on the skin, making it easier to detect in its early stages. If left undetected, however, melanoma can spread to distant sites or distant organs. This is referred to as metastatic melanoma. When melanoma spreads, it most commonly spreads to the liver, lungs, bones and brain, making treatment more difficult.
Research suggests that nearly 90% of cutaneous melanoma cases can be linked to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays – either from natural sources, like the sun, or from artificial sources, like indoor tanning beds. However, melanoma can occur in all melanocytes throughout the body.
Taking steps to prevent melanoma is the best first step in protecting yourself and your skin. It is important to learn about all of the risk factors.
When we think of melanoma prevention, we often think of the usual: using sunscreen, covering up, not burning and staying out of tanning beds. But, did you know that finding a suspicious mole or spot and having it checked out by a medical professional or dermatologist is considered one of the most important steps to preventing cutaneous (skin) melanoma? Detecting melanoma when it’s early enough to treat could mean the difference between life and a life-threatening illness.
Research suggests that nearly 90% of cutaneous melanomas are related to UV exposure. Therefore, most, but not all, melanomas are thought to be preventable. Melanoma prevention is best approached in two ways:
Reducing your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
Detecting melanoma early
Find an organization near you to learn more about melanoma prevention.