Skin cancer is a term used to identify cancerous cell growth on the epidermis of a person, but it really breaks down into three types. Melanoma skin cancer is by far the most deadly one.
When people discuss skin cancer, they are really talking about a general term that applies to cancerous problems with the skin. There are actually three subcategories of skin cancer – basal, squamous and melanoma. Melanoma is by far the deadliest.
Melanoma skin cancer is a malignant form of cancer. It occurs when cells that color the skin become cancerous. These cells are called melanocytes. Melanocytes are generally found in the lower layers of the epidermis. When you go out in the sun, the body reacts to protect itself by having melanocytes produce pigment to color the skin. In practical terms, this is what happens when you get a sunburn or tan.
Melanoma occurs due to a number of factors. The most common is when the DNA in the melanocytes is altered by UV radiation found in sunlight. While the damage is usually found on the skin, it can also occur in the eyes. On men, melanoma usually presents in the skin from the shoulders to the hips. With women, the disease tends to present on the arms and legs. A vast majority of reported cases involve adults, but kids can be unfortunate enough to suffer from it.
When evaluating melanoma, it is important to understand there are some defined risk factors. They include subjects such as unusual moles, exposure to the sun, tanning booth UV exposure, a family history of melanoma, red or blond hair, blue eyes, white or light colored skin. While these are common risk factors, there absence does not mean you are risk free.
Once discovered, the treatment for melanoma is highly dependent on the extent of the problem. Melanoma present only in the skin can be treated successfully in many different ways. Melanoma, however, can spread through the body. If it has spread to the lymph nodes, the risk of a terminal diagnosis goes up dramatically. Treatment courses will then be far more aggressive with the outcome dependent upon your specific situation.