Skin cancers are the most common type of cancers, and there are three main types, which are divided into non-melanoma skin cancers, and malignant melanomas.
While all skin cancers are cause for concern and require treatment, BCC and SCC are more common than malignant melanoma (sometimes only called ‘melanoma’), and they don’t usually spread to other areas parts of the body.
Melanoma is the rarest type of skin cancer, accounting for around 5% of all skin cancers; but it Is also the most aggressive, and it can spread to other parts of the body, including the organs. When this happens, it is called metastasis.
The term ‘melanoma’ refers to cancers that develop from the upper layers of the skin, when skin cells that cause the skin to be pigmented with melanin (called melanocytes) grow abnormally. When these pigmented skin cells change, the cancer is described as melanoma, as it originated from the melanocytes.
Melanoma skin cancers are serious and require specialist medical attention and treatment, and this is why suspected pre-cancerous lesions or suspicious growths should always be checked by a medical expert.
The earlier a melanoma is caught, the greater the chance of treating it before it spreads, so it must be taken seriously. Caught early, a melanoma should have only spread superficially (i.e. on the surface of the skin), so can potentially be fully excised. If a melanoma is fully excised, the chance of reoccurrence on the same site is low.
There are different types of melanoma, but they are usually treated in the same way. While melanoma skin cancer can affect people at any age the risk increases with age.
Symptoms of Malignant Melanomas
The first signs of melanoma is usually the appearance of a new spot on the skin, or a change in the size, shape or colour of an existing mole. While these symptoms should alert you to visit your doctor, it is also a good idea to make regularly checking your own skin a habit – especially if you are at higher risk for developing a skin cancer.
There is a mnemonic device called the ABCDE method that may be helpful to keep in mind when self-checking the mole or mark. ABCDE stands for;
The only way to be certain if a mole or mark is melanoma is to have it examined by a doctor, and time is of the essence in treating any skin cancer, but especially melanoma.
Other symptoms may include:
As the symptoms are so varied, and because not all melanomas develop from moles, it is critical to discuss new or unusual skin growths with your doctor.
Many melanomas develop in areas of the skin that are exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun, but they can also develop in areas that are usually covered up.
There are 8 types of melanoma, and they are;
Causes of Malignant Melanomas
Melanoma is caused by the abnormal growth of skin cells that are pigmented with melanin (called melanocytes).
The primary cause of melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light either from the sun, or from harmful artificial tanning practices, such as sunbeds or sunlamps. Factors that may mean someone has an increased susceptibility to malignant melanoma include;
While adhering to sun awareness advice – for example, staying out of the sun (especially during midday hours) and applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen - is best practice for everyone, patients who have previously had skin cancers should take all precautions to avoid harmful UV rays. Staying in the shade, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses outdoors are all recommended.
Treatment at Derma for Malignant Melanomas
Your appointment with the dermatologist will begin with analysis of the affected area, and possibly to perform a full skin check, and together you will discuss your medical history, before a course of treatment for malignant melanoma is recommended.
Many superficial melanoma skin cancers can be treated by excision, which is a relatively painless procedure that can be performed efficiently and effectively. Depending on insurance, treatment can be carried out the same day as consultation.
Please note that further tests – such as a biopsy – will be necessary. Follow-up appointments will be required to ensure that the melanoma is properly treated, and your skin monitored for any changes, as having skin cancer is likely to increase susceptibility.
We see and treat more skin cancer patients than any other doctors in Reading, so you can be assured that Derma will provide the very best care, the latest research and the most effective treatments.