Causes of Melanoma

What causes the most dangerous skin cancer?
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INTRODUCTION

What causes melanoma?

Melanoma occurs when skin is damaged and the DNA fails to repair. During the process of producing melanin cells, something goes wrong which triggers mutations in those skin cells. These mutated skin cells can multiply rapidly and form malignant tumours.

Skin cells ordinarily develop in a contained and calm matter. New healthy cells form under your skin’s surface and push the older cells out, where they eventually die and fall off – this happens constantly to every one of us. As mentioned before, some cells develop DNA damage which triggers the production of cells that are abnormal and dangerous.

Unfortunately, it is unclear exactly what damages DNA in skin cells and how it leads to melanoma, however, it is very likely a combination of multiple factors. These factors include exposure to ultraviolet light, skin type, personal & family history and more.

This page will go into more detail about the multiple factors that cause melanoma.

CAUSES

Different causes of melanoma

Moles

The more moles you have, the more risk you have at getting melanoma – unfortunately for most, it’s that simple. Luckily this doesn’t mean that every mole has risk of being, or becoming, a melanoma.

There are two types of moles: normal and atypical moles.

  • Normal moles are the brown blemishes we see on almost every skin. They are commonly referred to as beauty marks.
  • Atypical moles are also known as dysplastic nevi. These moles can be melanoma, or another skin cancer, in a preliminary stage.

Recognising whether a mole is normal or atypical is often done through the ABCDE method.

People with more than 50 moles are often in a higher risk category and should check their skin more often.

Read more: Melanoma Pictures

Personal and Family History

History with melanoma can play a major role in the cause of melanoma. Occurrences in either personal life or family history increases chances of development.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma you are prone for it to reoccur, but the chances your first-degree family members also developing the disease increase significantly with about 50%.

Ultraviolet Radiation

Ultraviolet, often shortened to UV, radiation is one of the major factors of increased risk for melanoma.

UV is most commonly found in sunlight and are classified as UVA, UVB or UVC rays which each cause different levels of harm. From what we know now UVA and UVB are the more damaging UV rays and are found to have caused melanoma, and other skin cancers, in the past.

The strength of the UV rays depend on a couple factors including the season of the year, the time and weather of the day. UV rays are often categorised into a scale from 1 to 11, where 11 is are the most harmful rays.

Fitzpatrick skin scale

Skin Type

Every skin is going to be affected when exposed to high levels of UV. However the severity of the burn is dependent on your skin type.

Skin is often classified in six types, also called the Fitzpatrick Types. The lower your skin type the higher your risk is of severe burns.

Read more: Different Skin Types

Weakened Immune System

Your immune system is crucial to your body as it can differentiate between healthy and damaged or abnormal cells. This is a continuous process and it will try to destroy any cells that might form harmful cancer cells. The process of checking cells is known as immunosurveillance.

When the immune system is weakened it does not have the same strength to defend against these harmful cells and allow them the opportunity to grow quicker.

The immune system can be weakened in multiple ways but most often it is the more serious diseases that cause your immune system the most trouble. Some cancers and extensive exposure to ultraviolet light are two factors that occur most often. Additionally certain medication when undergoing organ transplantations also affect the immune system negatively. HIV, the predecessor of AIDS, is also a factor that is most known to negatively impact immune systems.

Genetic Factors

In 2002 a mutated gene called BRAF was found in cancers. Since then it has been found in about half of melanoma cases. Research on the BRAF gene has increased significantly as increasing awareness and understanding could help new research possibilities and even new and improved drug therapies.

p53 is found often in familial melanoma cases. The gene, when it operates normally, helps the body repair mutated cells to prevent, amongst other things, cancer from developing. However when p53 is altered it can’t operate its job properly and allow cancers to grow. Heavy UV light that damages your skin actually has a harmful effect on the p53 gene which causes it to lose its ability to suppress tumors from growing.

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PREVENTION METHODS

How SkinVision can help you!

SkinVision enables you to check your skin spots for signs of skin cancer within 30 seconds. Our algorithm is currently at the level of a specialist dermatologist.

In skin spots with a potential health risk, SkinVision provides feedback about the preferred next step to take.

SkinVision also enables you to store photos to keep track of changes over time, helping you to monitor your health in the long term.

The efficient and easy-to-use solution is available for iOS and Android and helps to make skin monitoring a simple routine.

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Ready to take the first photo?

Download SkinVision from iTunes or Google Play and start checking your skin now.