Melanoma is a deadly skin disease that affects hundreds of thousands of people globally each year. It is the rarest form of skin cancer, but the deadliest. With melanoma rates on the rise around the world, it begs the question; what causes melanoma?
How melanoma originates and spreads
Melanomas can develop from existing moles or skin growths, but, more commonly, they will form a new growth. Melanoma originates in melanocyte cells found in the top layer of our skin: the innermost layer of the epidermis.
Melanoma is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer as it typically will spread to other areas of the body, including organs if left untreated. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including areas not exposed to the sun, like inside the mouth, under the nails or on the palms of the hands. Men are more likely to get melanomas on their back while women are more likely to develop them on their legs.
What melanoma causes?
Melanomas are caused by gene mutations. And while there are things that increase the risk factor for developing the gene mutations that cause melanoma, doctors are still unclear on how these factors trigger melanoma to form.
According to the American Cancer Society, most of the gene changes commonly seen in melanoma cells are not inherited. In fact, most cases of melanoma are caused by radiation from sunlight; some studies even put incidences of skin cancer caused by sun exposure at around 95%. The UV (ultraviolet) rays from the sun damage skin cells’ ability to repair DNA. When this happens, the risk of cancer increases.
Some melanomas, especially those formed in areas that aren’t regularly exposed to sunlight, exhibit different gene changes. It’s also important to note that the risk of melanoma increases if someone in the family has had melanoma, with gene mutations passed from one generation to the next.
Catching melanoma early
If melanoma is found early, it can often be cured through relatively simple surgery. But if it is caught at a later stage, it will have already spread to other areas of the body and is more difficult to cure.
Know the different melanoma types.
That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs of melanoma so that you can keep your skin safe and healthy.