Melanoma is essentially skin cancer. If detected early
enough, it can be cured in ninety-five percent of the
cases. However, it can also be fatal if allowed to run its
course. Melanomas can be almost invisible in some cases, so
a cursory examination is not effective in some cases.
Hidden melanomas are, fortunately, relatively rare.
All melanomas are formed from cells that produce pigment.
These are called melanocytes. So the cancer can develop
wherever there is pigmentation in the body. Hidden
melanomas can occur in difficult to detect parts of the
body, hence the need to do a thorough check annually.
An example of an unusual location where a hidden melanoma
can develop is the eye (intraocular melanoma). So the eyes
should be included in the check-up. An effective
preventative would be to use high quality sunglasses with
one-hundred percent UV protection. If you have prescription
glasses, photochromic lenses with UV protection are
It is useful to be aware that melanomas can also develop in
areas that are not exposed to sun rays. These include the
palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, in-between toes,
under the nails, and on the scalp! Even harder to detect
areas that the cancer can develop in are the genitalia,
anus, and mucosal lining of the mouth.
A potentially dangerous phenomenon is a “halo nevus”. This
manifests as a white halo around a mole or brown spot. It
appears that the mole or spot is shrinking, but a more
lethal process is underway – the melanoma is actually
digging deeper leaving less of itself on the surface.
HOW TO DETECT A MELANOMA:
It is of vital importance that you do a body skin check
every month, looking for brown spots in all the areas
outlined above. What you should also be looking for are new
spots or moles, or any changes to existing ones over a time
period of a few months. Potentially dangerous growths are
those that have asymmetrical ragged borders, or are six
millimeters or more in diameter. Another danger signal is
when growths disappear and reappear, or growths that bleed
easily. Melanomas under the nails usually occur in the
thumbs and large toes, and appear as black or brown
Possible symptoms of hidden melanomas, such as in the mouth
and esophagus, are inexplicable bleeding from the nose,
genitalia or urinary tract, throat pain and difficulty
swallowing, and a tightness in the esophageal area.
In addition to your personal monthly skin check, it is
strongly recommended that you have an annual examination
conducted by a qualified dermatologist.
HIGH RISK CANDIDATES:
Melanomas can develop in anybody, but the following are at
a higher risk:
Those who have had a previous skin cancer.
Those with a family history of skin cancer.
Those with several abnormal appearing moles (dysplastic nevi).
Fair skinned people with light eyes, who easily sunburn.
Blacks, and dark skinned people, are susceptible to under
the nail melanomas (subungual), and mucosal melanoma.
Avoid excessive exposure to the sun, but don’t be obsessive
about it. Remember, sunlight stimulates the formation of
vitamin D, which is important for the body. Conduct
frequent checks on yourself, especially if you fall into
the high risk group. And, studies show that if you exercise
regularly, you gain protection from melanoma. Researchers
think that this might be because exercise enhances a
process called UVB-induced apoptosis, in which the body
kills sun-damaged cells.