The awareness of skin cancer increases everyday as more is known about the disease and more exposure is given to preventing the disease on television and radio than ever before. It is thought to be the most common form of cancer in the United States and Australia alone.
Whilst this might be alarming, most forms of skin cancer are not life threatening and can be treated. The fact that most of the signs of the disease are on the surface of the skin means that they can be identified and treated early on with complete success.
However there is one form of the disease that can be life threatening if not caught early on. This is malignant melanoma. This article will discuss what is malignant melanoma and ways to prevent the disease.
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.
This means they interfere with surrounding tissue or organs causing them to malfunction or be destroyed. If cancerous cells get into the bloodstream or lymphatic system, then they can spread to other parts of the body. This is known as metastasizing. When cancer spreads to the rest of the body it gets very difficult to treat.
Current research suggests that the prime cause of malignant melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. And since it is virtually impossible to not be exposed to sunlight in some way, the Sun is the primary cause of melanoma. However other factors are thought to increase the chances of developing the disease.
If you have a family history of the disease then your chances are increased. If you have fair skin,freckles, fair or red hair and pale colored eyes then you are more at risk. If you have plenty of moles on your skin you may also be at risk (although some people that are born with moles on the skin are not thought to be as susceptible)
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.
Prevent melanoma by limiting your exposure to sunlight and other things that will expose you to UV radiation. If you are in the Sun, wear a hat, clothe as much of the body as practical, sunglasses and sunscreen.