Melanoma and the way to recovery
Melanoma, also known as malignant melanoma, is the most serious form of skin cancer, that is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes. It is the deadliest form of skin cancer and strikes tens of thousands of people around the world each year. The number of cases is rising faster than any other type of solid cancer.
Melanomas may appear on the skin suddenly without warning but also can develop on an existing mole. The overall incidence of melanoma continues to rise.
Some melanomas are giant or small, and may be present at birth or shortly after birth that can occur anywhere on the body. On the other hand, others are flat pigmented lesion which gradually enlarges, light tan to dark brown or black with irregular notched borders.
Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. There are also high rates in Northern Europe and North America, while it is less common in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Since most pigment cells are in the skin, most melanomas start on the skin. They can occur in the membranes of the nasal passages, oral, pharyngeal mucosa, vaginal and anal mucosa. Sometimes they develop from a mole with changes such as an increase in size, irregular edges, change in color, itchiness, or skin breakdown.
According to the American Melanoma Foundation (AMF), more than 70 percent of melanomas develop in or near an existing mole or dark spot on the skin. Ordinary Moles are evenly colored, have sharply defined edges and are round or oval in shape. They can be flat or raised and are less than 6 millimeters diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser). Melanomas have an irregular appearance and are usually larger than an ordinary mole.
Several kinds of research show that people older than 50 and have many large moles or atypical (unusual) moles have a higher risk of developing melanoma than the general population.
If it is noticed that a mole different from others, or one that changes, itches or bleeds, even if it is smaller than 6mm, one should make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible.
Features of skin lesions that generally suggest a risk for melanoma classically are remembered with the "ABCD(E)" mnemonic, with asymmetry, border irregularity, color variegation, increased diameter, and evolution of the lesion as warning signs.
Exact causes of melanoma are not fully understood. However, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from tanning beds increases the risk for developing it. People in southern regions, where the sunlight is more intense, are more likely to develop melanoma than those in northern regions. Other possible causes include genetic factors and immune system deficiencies.
If detected early, melanoma can be surgically removed. If it has spread too much for surgical removal, other standard treatments including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, surgery etc.
Minimizing exposure to sources of ultraviolet radiation (the sun and sunbeds), following sun protection measures and wearing sun protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, and broad-brimmed hats) can offer protection.
Sunscreen is a lotion that absorbs or reflects some of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation and thus appears to be effective in preventing melanoma. Sunscreen also protects against squamous cell carcinoma, another skin cancer.
The writer is a student at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU).