Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises in skin cells called melanocytes. These melanocytes are the cells responsible for producing melanin, which gives skin its color. Abnormal growth into cancerous cells of melanocytes leads to melanoma.
Melanoma is usually diagnosed by detecting an abnormal mole. This typically means identification of a mole that has changed in size, shape, and/or color. These are often dark/hyperpigmented and sometimes cause symptoms such as itching. A skin biopsy can be performed to confirm the diagnosis and assist in treatment decisions. Routine skin examinations by a dermatologist combined with skin self-examinations are useful in detecting melanoma.
The key to treatment is early diagnosis followed by surgical treatment. Surgery is the primary treatment for all stages of melanoma. There are multiple surgical variations. One of the newest advances in the surgical treatment of melanoma is the use of Mohs micrographic surgery. This is primarily used to treat melanomas in cosmetic and/or difficult-to-treat areas such as the face, eyelid, nose, and ears. It may also be used to treat large melanomas in which traditional surgical therapy may not achieve adequate surgical margins.
The key to prevention of melanoma is reduced exposure to the sun and increased use of sunscreen. Skin self-examinations and routine dermatologic exams are paramount to prevention as well. Children should be protected with adequate use of sunscreen - protection during the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 78%.