(Cutaneous Melanoma; Malignant Melanoma)
DefinitionMelanoma is a type of skin cancer. It is the least common form of skin cancer, but it can be more serious because it is more likely to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma arises from the type of cell called melanocytes that give moles their dark colors. These cells can be found in the skin, eyes, digestive system, nail beds, or lymph nodes. Although melanoma is most common in the skin, it may also arise in these other areas. Treatment for melanoma depends on how early it is detected, or if the melanoma has spread.
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CausesCancer occurs when cells in the body divide without control or order. Eventually these uncontrolled cells form a growth or tumor. The term cancer refers to malignant growths. These growths invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. It is not clear exactly what causes these problems in the cells but is probably a combination of genetics and environment.
Risk FactorsThe most common risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The most common source of this radiation comes form the sun, but it is also found in sun lamps and tanning booths.Melanoma is found most often in older adults, but it can happen in young adults. It is more common in people who are Caucasian. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing melanoma include:
- Certain types of moles called dysplastic nevi, or atypical moles
- Large nevi present at birth
- Fair skin, freckling
- Red or blonde hair
- Light-colored eyes
- Family members with melanoma
- Excessive skin exposure to the sun without protective clothing or sunscreen
- Certain occupations, such as telephone repair employees, harbor masters, and electrical fitters
- Suppressed immune system
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