Why does melanoma spread so quickly?

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When it’s diagnosed early, it is possible to be treated entirely just by surgical removal. Therefore, the early detection of skin cancer is vital to our life. Make sure you self-check regularly and talk to your doctor when you feel uncomfortable.

Where spreading melanoma begins

Melanoma begins in melanocytes cells (the cells that create pigment) in the deepest layer of skin, also known as the hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue. When these cells become damaged, mutations can occur and the mutated cells can reproduce themselves rapidly, eventually forming a tumor and taking over surrounding tissues.

Melanomas can develop from existing moles or skin growths, but, more commonly, they will start as a new growth. At this point, the melanoma is only present in the skin, also known as stage one and two melanoma.

How fast can melanoma spread?

People that have been diagnosed with melanoma, or have someone close to them who has been diagnosed with this dangerous type of skin cancer, often ask questions such as ‘how fast can melanoma spread?’. Unfortunately, this question is very hard to answer. The speed of spreading depends on a lot of factors and therefore is unique to every situation.

How is melanoma diagnosed?

Factors that affect how quickly melanoma will spread

Why melanoma spreads

First, we need to understand why melanoma spreads so quickly. This is due to the fact that it can spread to vital organs and the lymph nodes. These parts play a vital role in our bodies and can help melanoma spread quickly. As for the spreading speed, the type of melanoma plays a key role here.

When the cancer cells invade the deeper skin layers, known as invasive melanoma, melanoma spreads and grows faster and is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If melanoma is superficial or a case of Lentigo malignant melanoma, then the spreading can be smaller or slower.

How fast can melanoma spread

A second factor that plays an important role in how fast melanoma can spread is the genetic factor. Certain gene abnormalities encourage melanoma to invade the surrounding tissue. This means that certain ways of how cells are composed can affect the speed of the melanoma spreading. This process, though, can vary significantly from one person to another.

If you have been diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, talk with your doctor about your personal situation and treatment options.

What does a normal mole look like?

Where does melanoma spread to?

Spreading to the lymph nodes

When a tumor gets too big, it requires more oxygen and nutrients to survive.

This is when the tumor sends out signals that cause new blood vessels to grow into the tumor (a process called angiogenesis), bringing the nutrients and oxygen it needs. After angiogenesis occurs, cancer cells are now able to break off and enter the bloodstream.

They can also break off and spread through the lymphatic system (a system that carries fluid throughout the body and is a vital part of the circulatory and immune system). When this happens, the cancer cells can now settle and take root in a new area of the body. Once the cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes it’s considered stage three melanoma.

Spreading to the organs

After the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, the lymph nodes and/or blood vessels help the cancer move to other areas of the body, like the organs. Which organ it will spread to first, varies depending on where the cancer started, the type and the person, but the liver, lungs, and brain are common sites for metastases.

Once it’s in the organs, it is known as stage four melanoma.

Early detection prevents melanoma from spreading

While there are still many mysteries when it comes to why and how melanoma develops, it is certain that the sooner melanoma is discovered, the lower the chances of it spreading and becoming deadly. That’s why it’s essential to perform regular skin checks and know the symptoms of melanoma so you can catch it early.

Read more: First symptoms of melanoma

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Why does melanoma spread so quickly? 1
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"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom
"The melanoma could have been on my arm for years"
Andrew Bartlett
United Kingdom

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