Melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer. It develops in the cells that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment under your skin that is responsible for the color of your skin. Melanoma can also form in your eyes and internal organs like intestines. However, this happens in rare cases.
Symptoms of melanoma
Melanoma can develop anywhere in the body. It usually tends to occur in the area that is exposed to the sun like your legs, hands, back, and face. However, melanoma tends to occur even in areas that don’t receive much sun exposure like soles of your feet or palms. These hidden moles are usually more common in people who have a dark complexion. The first signs and symptoms of melanoma include a change in your existing mole or a development of a new unusual pigment on your skin. Melanoma doesn’t always begin with a mole, it can even occur in the otherwise normal-appearing skin.
The moles that people usually have are in uniform color like tan, brown, or black. These moles have a distinct border that separates them from the rest of the skin. They are usually round or oval in shape. Most people have around 10 to 45 moles on their body; these tend to develop by the age of 50. These moles may change in appearance over time and some may even disappear. However, in case of moles that indicate melanoma or any other type of skin cancer, there are certain characteristics to look for. They are-
- Moles that are irregular in shape – two moles that have very different looking halves. Asymmetrically shaped moles may be cancerous in nature.
- Look for moles that have new growth that is larger than 1/4th inch.
- Look for moles that have irregular borders. Moles with irregular, scalloped, or notched borders are one of the characteristics of melanoma.
- Look for moles that have many colors or have colors that are undistributed.
- Check if any of your moles have evolved over time. If your mole has grown in size or the color has changed or the shape of your mole has changed. Even if any of your moles have symptoms like bleeding or itching.
Malignant moles tend to vary greatly in appearance. Some may show all the characteristics that are listed above, while some may rarely show any. Melanoma may also develop in those parts of your body like your toes, palms, scalps or even genitals which are not exposed to the sun at all. Hidden melanoma includes melanoma under a nail, melanoma in your eyes, or even melanoma in your mouth, digestive tract, urinary tract or vagina.
Prevention of melanoma
You can reduce the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer by simply incorporating changes in your day-to-day life. Avoiding the sun is the best way to prevent skin cancer of any kind. Sun rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to avoid going out during this time as much as possible. Re-schedule your appointments and other activities for other time of the day, even when it’s winter or the sky is cloudy. This is because clouds hardly provide any protection from the damaging UV rays of the sun. Also, use sunscreen all year-round and wear clothes that protect you from the sun. Avoid tanning lamps and beds as they emit UV rays which increases the risk of skin cancer.