Skin Cancer: Melanoma Essay, Research Paper
What causes melanoma?Scientists do not yet know exactly what causes melanoma skin cancer, but we do know that certain risk factors are linked to the disease. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be controlled. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed. But having a risk factor, or even several, doesn?t mean that a person will get the disease.
Risk Factors for Melanoma Skin CancerMoles: Moles are (not cancerous) skin tumors. People with lots of moles, and those who have some large moles, have an increased risk for melanoma.
Fair skin: Fair skin, freckling, and light hair increases the risk of melanoma.
Family history: Around 10% of people with melanoma have a close relative (mother father, brother, sister, child) with the disease.
Immune weakness: People who have been treated with medicines that suppress the immune system have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
UV radiation: Too much exposure to UV radiation is a risk factor for melanoma. The main source of such radiation is sunlight.
Age: About half of melanomas occur in people over the age of 50. But younger people can get melanoma too.
What Is Melanoma?You’ve heard the term “melanoma” before, but what does it mean? Let me help you understand. Cancer occurs when cells in a part of the body begin to grow out of control. Although there are many kinds of cancer, they all come about because of rapid growth of abnormal cells. Different kinds of cancer can behave very differently. For example, lung cancer and breast cancer are very different diseases. They grow at different rates and respond to different treatments. That’s why people with cancer need treatment that is aimed at their kind of cancer.
Because they behave differently, skin cancers are divided into two major groups: melanoma skin cancer and nonmelanoma skin cancer. This research report covers melanoma skin cancer only.
Melanoma begins in the cells (melanocytes) that produce the skin coloring. In order to understand melanoma, it’s helpful to learn about normal skin.
Normal SkinThe skin is the largest organ in the body. It covers and protects the organs inside the body. It also protects the body against germs and prevents the loss of too much water and other fluids. The skin sends messages to the brain about heat, cold, touch, and pain.
The skin has three layers. From the outside in, they are: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutis.
The top layer of the skin, the epidermis, is very thin and serves to protect the deeper layers of skin and the organs. The epidermis itself has three layers: an upper, a middle, and a bottom layer composed of cells.
These cells divide to form specialized type of cells called keratinocytes, which make a substance that helps protect the body.
Another type of cells, melanocytes, are also present in the epidermis. These cells produce the pigment, that gives the tan or brown color to skin and helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
A layer called the basement membrane separates the epidermis from the deeper layers of skin.
The middle layer of the skin is called the dermis. The dermis is much thicker than the epidermis. It contains hair shafts, sweat glands, blood vessels, and nerves.
The last and deepest layer of the skin is called the subcutis. The subcutis keeps in heat and has a shock-absorbing effect that helps protect the body’s organs from injury.
Skin Tumors Nonmelanoma skin cancers are the most common cancers of the skin. They are called nonmelanoma because they develop from skin cells other than melanocytes.
Melanoma skin cancers, respectively, begin in the melanocytes. Because most cancerous melanoma cells continue to produce melanin ( a skin pigment), melanoma tumors are often brown or black. Melanoma most often appears on the trunk of fair-skinned men and on the lower legs of fair-skinned women, but it can appear other places as well. While having dark skin lowers the risk of melanoma, it does not mean that a person with dark skin will never develop melanoma.
Melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages. But it is also likely to spread to other parts of the body. Most tumors of the skin are not cancer and rarely, if ever, turn into cancers.
How to prevent melanoma?The best way to lower the risk of melanoma is to avoid too much exposure to the sun and other sources of UV light. These suggestions can help you prevent skin cancer:
Avoid being outdoor in sunlight too long, especially in the middle of the day when ultraviolet light is most intense.
Protect your skin with clothing, including a shirt and a hat with a broad brim.
Use sunscreen. The sunscreen should have an SPF mark of 15 or more. Apply it correctly. It should be reapplied every two hours. Use it even on hazy days or days with light or broken cloud cover. Don’t stay out in the sun longer just because you’re using sunscreen.
Wear sunglasses. Wrap-around sunglasses with 99%-100% UV absorption give the best protection.
Avoid other sources of UV light such as tanning beds and sun lamps.
Be especially careful about sun protection for children. People, who suffer severe, blistering sunburns, particularly in childhood or teenage years, are at increased risk of melanoma.
Check suspicious moles with your doctor and have them removed if indicated.
How is melanoma treated?There is a lot to think about when choosing the best way to treat or manage cancer. There may be more than one treatment to choose from.
There are four types of treatment for melanoma skin cancer: surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
Types of Surgery for Melanoma Skin CancerThin melanomas can be completely cured by a minor operation called simple excision. The tumor is cut out, along with a small amount of normal skin at the edges. The wound is carefully stitched back together. This surgery will leave a scar.
If the melanoma is on a finger or toe, the treatment is to amputate as much as is necessary. At one time, some melanomas of the arms and legs were also treated by amputation, but that is no longer done.
Once it looks like the melanoma has spread from the skin to distant organs doctors generally assume it can no longer be cured by surgery. Even so, surgery is sometimes done because removing even a few areas of spread cancer cells could help some people to live longer or to have a better quality of life.
ChemotherapySystemic chemotherapy is the use of anticancer drugs injected into a vein or given orally. These drugs enter the bloodstream and reach all areas of the body, making the treatment useful for cancers that have spread to distant organs. While chemotherapy drugs kill cancer cells, they also damage some normal cells and this can lead to side effects.
ImmunotherapyImmunotherapy helps a person’s immune system to better attack the cancer. There are several types of immunotherapy used for people with advanced melanoma.
Cytokines are proteins that work as boosters for the immune system. Side effects of cytokine therapy can include fever, chills, aches, and severe tiredness.
Vaccine therapy is similar to the way we use vaccines to destroy viruses that cause polio, measles, and mumps, but developing a vaccine against a tumor like melanoma is more difficult than developing a vaccine to fight a virus.