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What Causes Malignant Melanoma ?

Apr 6, 2008
With more understanding of skin cancer, the extent to which it affects people becomes fully known. In fact, it is the most common form of cancer in the United States and Australia to date. It is also becoming increasingly prevalent in many other countries throughout the world.

Whilst you might think that this is cause for concern, most forms of skin cancer are easy to treat and don't pose a threat to life. Also the signs and symptoms of skin cancer are generally on the surface of the skin so are easy to spot. this means they can be treated early on, ensuring complete success.

However of the three types of skin cancer, malignant melanoma is potentially very serious and can be life threatening if not spotted early. This article will cover what is malignant melanoma , how it forms and how to prevent it.

Cancer is thought to be caused by a combination of a persons genetic makeup and their exposure to some environmental condition. In the case of malignant melanoma, the environmental condition is too much exposure to the Sun. Specifically, ultraviolet radiation from the Sun (UVA and UVB radiation). Or exposure to other things that radiate ultraviolet radiation onto and into the skin (Sun beds for instance).

Too much ultraviolet radiation can mutate the DNA of a cell, making it cancerous. The genes in the DNA that cause this become known as oncogenes. Cells that have undergone this transformation do not die but divide and proliferate. They grow at an unregulated rate. As they continue to multiply their growth can become invasive.

Invasive growth means the cancer invades the surrounding tissue or even organs within the body. It can prevent the organs from functioning and in some cases destroy them. In some cases the cancerous cells can spread to the blood stream or the lymphatic system making it easier for the cancer to spread throughout the body. When this happens it becomes very difficult to treat and prevent further spreading. This is known as metastasizing.

So, whilst ultraviolet radiation and our exposure to sunlight is thought to be the primary environmental cause of malignant melanoma, there are a number of genetic factors that increase the risk.

Having a family member who has or had skin cancer in the past increases your chances of developing the disease. If your skin burns easily in the sun and turns red rather than tanning then you are more at risk. If you have light colored eyes or blond or red hair then you are more at risk. If you have moles on your body then you are more at risk to skin cancer.

Melanoma can start as a brown mark or spot on the skin. This may be hard to distinguish from an ordinary mole however if it starts to change color or gets larger then this may be a sign of melanoma. If you notice something like this happening on your body you should see a doctor.

As it is impossible to completely avoid the Sun, all you can do to prevent melanoma is to limit your skins exposure to it. This means wearing a hat, sunglasses, clothing that covers as most of your body and sun cream for areas that are open to the Sun.
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Get more details on the symptoms of skin cancer and the types of skin cancers.
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