About the disease
Melanoma is the rarest type of skin cancer, but it is also the most dangerous. It develops very quickly and can spread to other organs, if not detected in time. It develops in the melanocytes, which are the skin cells responsible for producing melanin. Melanin is responsible for protecting the skin from harmful effects of exposure to sunlight and prevents sunburn by darkening the skin.
Melanoma is more common in people with fair skin. People with generally dark skin are not likely to develop melanoma, but they are not immune. Very dark skinned people can develop melanoma on the paler parts of their body, such as the palms of their hands or under their nails. Pale skinned people may develop melanoma on areas of the face, such as the nose, under the eyes or near the mouth. People who have moles and freckles are also more at risk of developing this type of cancer.
Melanoma stops the skin from producing melanin. It can be caused by long-term exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays or by exposure to certain chemicals.
Melanoma is generally thought to be caused by exposure to ultraviolet rays. However, smoking and having a genetic predisposition can also contribute to the development of this disease. According to the American Cancer Society, 2.5% of pale skinned people risk developing melanoma at some point in their lives, meaning that out of 40 people, 1 is likely to develop melanoma during his/her lifetime.
- Strange moles or sores on the skin, which are not congenital and do not heal over some period of time
- Unevenly colored skin
- Inability to tan in the sun
- Skin burns easily in the sun
- Strange blemishes or marks on the skin
- Bleeding on certain parts of the skin
- During a physical examination, the dermatologist will look for signs of unevenly colored skin or unusual sores, to assess which parts of the skin could be malignant.
- Dermatoscopy examines certain parts of the skin under a light with a special magnifying lens. This can identify strange changes in the skin and determine whether there are any signs of scarring or sores.
- A biopsy is the most effective diagnosing method for determining the stage of melanoma and its size. Doctors examine a sample of the skin under a microscope. The biopsy will remove as much malignant skin as possible, to stop cancer from spreading.
- Micrographic Mohs surgery is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that allows surgeons to preserve as many layers of healthy skin as possible. Layer after layer of malignant skin is removed. With the removal of each layer, the next layer is examined under the microscope to determine whether it too needs to be removed.
- Vaccination of dendritic cells and chemotherapy (1 course) is an innovative treatment method, used if cancer has not gone very deep into the skin. The vaccination blocks the malignant cells from spreading and chemotherapy kills them.
- Resection of the skin is performed if the size of the melanoma has been determined and its exact location has been identified. Resection can be performed through wide or targeted excision.
- Targeted therapy uses special drugs that inhibit and attack malignant cells. This therapy can considerably shrink, and in some cases completely destroy, the tumor.