Melanomas are malignant tumors found in cells of the bottom layer of the epidermus, the uvea, the middle layer of the eyes, the bones, the inner ears, the meninges membranes of the central nervous system, the bowels, and the heart that produce the dark melanin pigments responsible for the color of the skin through a process known as melanogenesis.
Highest Risk Groups:
With more than sixty thousand new cases of the disease diagnosed in the United States each year, most often afflicting White males living in sunny climates, or those who use tanning saloons extensively, more frequently than any other groups, Melanoma remains one of the least common forms of skin cancer but causes as many as seventy-five percent of all skin cancer-related deaths.
Melanomas may be divided into thirteen different types including Uveal Melanomas of the iris, ciliary tissues, and choride vascular coat of the connective tissues of the eyes, Melanoma with features of Spitz Nevus affecting the dermis and epidermis of the skin, Small Cell Melanoma of the cutaneous tissues, Clear-Cell Melanoma of the soft tissues with common recurrences, Amelanotic Melanoma that prevents cells from producing melanin, Desmoplastic Melanoma that deeply infiltrates cutaneous tissues, Polypoid Melanoma, the most aggressive, and one of the fastest growing, forms of the disease, Mucosal Melanoma of the mucous membranes, Acral Lentiginous Melanoma of the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the undersides of the finger and toenails, the most commonly diagnosed form of Melanoma among Blacks and Asians, Superficially Spreading Melanoma, the most common type of cutaneous melanomas in Whites, usually appearing on their backs and lower limbs, Lentigo Maligna Melanoma of sun damaged faces and forarms of elderly people, and Lentigo Melanoma, commonly known as Hutchinson’s Melanotic Freckles, a very slowly growing, non-invasive form of the disease that may linger for years.
Family histories of Melanoma may be caused by a variety of genes, and according to a World Health Organization report released in July 2009 “people exposed to tanning bed UV radiation before the age of 30 are 75 percent more likely to develop melanomas”.
Symptoms of melanomas may include such things as changes in the colors or shapes of moles, itching or bleeding moles, ulcerated moles, fatigue, nausea, and metastasis of the melanoma.
Melanomas are diagnosed only after they become visible on the skin and may be made through their asymmetry, irregular borders, variegated colors, and being larger than six millimeters, however, melanomas may be smaller than six millimeters in diameter, and more than likely are malignant from Day One of discovery. Dermatoscopic Examinations, biopsies, confocal microscopes, Lactate Dehydrogenase Tests for metastization, LDH levels that indicate the cancer has spread to the liver, chest x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, lymph node examinations, and the presence of the S-100 protein marker may also be used in diagnosing melanomas.
The Ugly Duckling Sign is a newer method of detecting melanoma lesions that deviate from the common characteristics of moles, while the Little Red Riding Hood Sign suggests fair-skinned people, with light colored hair, may have difficult to detect Amelanotic Melanomas, or severely dysplastic chronic skin lesions, because their light brown or pink colors blend in so well with the person’s complexion.
The four stages of melanomas including Stage 0 Melanoma in Situ, Stage One and Stage Two Invasive Melanomas, Stage Three Regional Metastasis Melanoma, and Stage Four Distant Metastasis Melanomas, may be determined by Breslow’s Depth Staging, a prognostic factor in skin melanomas, established by excisional biopsies used to examine how deep tumors have invaded, and the risk for lymph node metastasis, and by Clark’s Level Staging that describes the anatomical invasion of tumors in the skin, and tends to be a more beneficial tool in patients with very thin melanomas, including those found only in the epidermis, the papillary dermis, the reticular dermis, and in subcutaneous fat invasions.
Early tumor resections, chemotherapies, radiations, and immunotherapies tend to provide the best chances of curing melanomas.
Melanomas may regress spontaneously in size or become invisible, however, their malignancy is still present. Some patients with metastatic melanomas do not have obvious tumors. Lentigo Melanomas often appear as “stains” on the skin, and Amelanotic Melanomas are flesh-colored or colorless.
Minimizing exposures to ultraviolet radiation, wearing sun protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, and following sun protection measures may assist in protecting against developing melanomas. Skin should be checked regularly to ensure no abnormal colorizations are found without being examined by a doctor, and many medical personnel recommend SPF 30 sunscreens for added protection.
This Article was compiled from several websites that provide much more information about melanomas including: