Melanoma, also known as malignant melanoma, refers to a type of cancer that emanates from the melanocytes. Melanocytes are the pigment-containing cells. While melanomas occur mostly in the skin, there are rare instances where they would also affect the mouth, eyes as well as the intestines.
This condition mainly attacks the legs in women and the backs in men. Usually, melanomas develop from a mole which often goes to increase in size and irregular edges as well as changes in color, itchiness and then skin breakdown. Like is the case with many types of cancer, the primary cause of this condition is exposure to ultraviolet light coupled with low levels of skin pigmentation. However, there are a host of other causes as we shall discover later in the article.
Of all the known types of cancer, Melanoma is the most dangerous. Statistics indicate this cancer occurred in some 232000 individuals in the year 2012 globally and resulted in 55000 deaths from these cases.
For some reasons, the prevalence is high in Australia and New Zealand. Europe and North America also register fairly high cases with the least prevalence of the disease in Asia, Latin America and Africa. The condition is more common in men than it is in women and it has been common from the 19602, especially in the areas mostly Caucasian.
Melanoma is classified based on the body part it affects and how the general condition develops and in this regard , we have the following types of melanoma;
Lentigo maligna Lentigo maligna melanoma Acral lentiginous melanoma Superficial spreading melanoma Nodular melanoma Mucosal melanoma Amelanotic melanoma Desmoplastic melanoma Polypoid melanoma Soft-tissue melanoma
The most notorious cause of Melanomas is the ultraviolet radiation. These radiations are common with people who work in tanning beds and planes as they are the most exposed to the uncensored rays from the sun. As humans are exposed to the harsh rays from the sun, the areas that receive intermittent sun exposure such as the back in men and the legs in women become most susceptible to this condition.
It is also worth noting that the risks of acquiring melanoma through uv is more influenced by socio-economic conditions as opposed to indoor versus outdoor occupations, which explains why those in the white-collar jobs are more prone to the condition than their blue-collar counterparts.
Melanomas may also be caused by a series of genetic factors that manifest themselves as rare mutations that run in families. There is one class of mutations that affects the gene CDKN2A where an alternative reading frame may lead to destabilization of p53 which is a transcription factor that is involved in apoptosis and about 50% of human cancers.
This gene may also face another mutation that often results in a nonfunctional inhibitor of the CDK4 which is a cyclin-dependent kinase which facilitates cell division. In addition to the mutations above, all other mutations that result in the skin condition known as xerodema pigmentosa also play a significant role in enhancing melanoma susceptibility.
There are also other mutations that may cause melanoma but they generally confer lower risks of developing the condition. For instance, all mutations occurring in the MC1R gene present higher susceptibility to develop melanoma than those with two wild-type copies. On the other hand, so common is the mutation in the MDM2 SNP309 gene that all red-haired people appear to have a mutated copy.
The early signs of this condition are changes in the colors of existing moles as well as the appearance of a new lump in the case of nodular melanoma.