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Melanoma

Melanoma is a malignant skin tumor that comes from melanocytes (the cells that give the skin its color). Although normally the melanoma appears on healthy skin, currently a third of the melanomas appear on melanocytic nevi (a type of skin spot), and there are also cases where they have appeared on other parts of the body (mucus membranes, especially the eye, digestive tract and glands, among others).

Among the factors related to melanoma development, are:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet rays (sun or tanning beds)
  • Light colored skin, eyes and hair
  • Multiple typical melanocytic nevi (moles) or atypical nevi

Prevention

  • Avoid intentional exposure to the sun, especially during the central hours of the day; stay in the shade
  • Use protective clothing
  • Take precautions when sun exposure cannot be avoided
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB)sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month and consult a dermatologist if you detect a new lesion on your skin or changes in existing ones (change of form, color, becoming bloody)
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam and follow the recommendations given

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, composed of over 40 skin cancer organizations and foundations in the United States, adopted the following recommendations:

  • Avoid burning; avoid sun tanning and tanning beds
  • Apply sunscreen even if you are using a sunless self-tanning product to give the appearance of being tanned
  • Apply a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every two hours, even if the day is cloudy, and after swimming or sweating. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB)sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible; remember the sun is at its highest between 10 am and 4:00 pm
  • Use protective clothing: long sleeved shirts, long trousers, wide-brimmed hat and sun glasses whenever possible
  • Get vitamin D safely; eat a healthy diet including vitamin D supplements if necessary

 

Think A-B-C-D-E when checking your skin spots for cancer:


  • A. Asymmetry: the two halves will not match
  • B. Borders: borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven
  • C. Color: a variety of colors could include a number of different shades of brown, tan or black; melanoma may also become red, white or blue
  • D. Diameter: changes in size, usually larger than 6 mm
  • E. Evolving: any change in the mole in the last weeks or months is important

Gene or region studied

  • SLC45A2
  • PIGU
  • AFG3L1P
  • 20q11.22
  • CDK10
  • ERCC2
  • MC1R
  • IL6R
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