Melanoma is a form of skin cancer
. This type of cancer arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin and are responsible for the skin's color. Melanoma is distinguished from nevi, which also germinate from melanoma cells, but are benign: they are moles. Melanoma can occur at any age, although its existence in children is exceptional. Sun exposure, particularly during childhood, hereditary factors, many nevi and fair skin are all factors associated with an increased risk of melanoma.
Melanoma appears as a mole, but whose characteristics are unique:
- irregular edges;
- the color is not uniform;
- a diameter greater than 6 millimeters;
- recent modifications, with an increase in size, change in color, or the feeling that is "sticks out" more.
These criteria are easily remembered by the ABCDE rule (Asymmetry, Borders, Color, Diameter and Evolution).
The diagnosis consists of confirming the presence of melanoma and identifying the type and stage. For this, a biopsy is performed and sent to a pathologist (a doctor specializing in the analysis of tissues), who will study the sample by analyzing its cellular composition. He will also measure its thickness and depth. If the diagnosis of melanoma is confirmed and the next evolutionary stage classified by the pathologist, other tests looking for spreading to nodes or other organs are made.
Treatment varies depending on the stage of melanoma and the health of the patient. Surgery is performed to remove the melanoma followed by any necessary chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Monitoring of the skin will be required on a regular basis.
To prevent the occurrence of melanoma, it is necessary to limit exposure to the sun, especially when the skin is very fair. Use of a sunscreen with a high protective index is recommended. In patients at risk, monitoring any changes in moles is recommended.