Of the three types of skin cancers that you can develop, melanomas are the most dangerous, but also the rarest. If you develop one, it is because the DNA of your skin has been damaged and is unable to repair itself. The unrepaired skin cells mutate and multiply rapidly leading to malignant tumours. But that’s not all about melanoma development.
The damage is most commonly caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or the overuse of sunbeds. This intense exposure to UV rays has also been linked with a genetic predisposition, which can trigger the development of this form of cancer.
Where does melanoma develop?
It will have started in the layer of your skin where pigment-producing melanocytes are located. Some melanomas will develop from existing moles and many of them look like regular moles, ranging in colour from your skin tone through to purple or black.
You can discover a melanoma anywhere on your body, although they are most likely to appear on your trunk, legs, neck or face. In fact, on any part of your body that might have been overexposed to the sun’s powerful UV rays. It is unusual, but a melanoma can also develop in your eyes, mouth and on your genital or anal area.
Are there different types of melanomas?
Melanomas which appear on your skin can be categorised into different types. The most common are superficial spreading melanomas, which present themselves as brown or black spots. These grow slowly across the outer layer of your epidermis. Nodular melanomas are less common and appear as raised dark lumps on your skin. Occasionally, they can also be colourless.
If you are older, you might be more at risk of lentigo maligna melanoma which begins as a large freckle on sun exposed skin. These grow slowly and superficially. The rarest form is acral lentiginous melanoma, found on the palms of your hands, soles of feet or under your fingernails. You are more at risk of developing these if you are dark skinned.
A melanoma, like basal cell and squamous cell cancers, is almost always treatable if detected early. Unlike the other two cancers, however, if not detected, it may quickly spread to other parts of your body.
Know more about: Types of Melanoma