What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in certain skin cells. To understand what melanoma is, it is necessary to know about the skin in general.


The Skin

The skin is the largest organ of human body. It does many things, like:

- Helps keep out germs

- Covers and protects all the vital organs

- Helps keep fluids inside

- Helps control body temperature

- Protects the body from UV (Ultraviolet) rays

- Helps the body produce vitamin D


The skin has 3 layers; from the outside, these are:

- Epidermis: This is the top layer of the skin, and the thinnest. The flat cells located at the top of the layer are known as squamos cells. Under them are basal cells. Melanocytes cells are also in the epidermis. These types of cells produce a brown pigment called melanin, that gives the skin a brown or tan color. These cells can or may develop melanoma.

- Dermis: This is the middle layer of the skin. It’s thicker than the epidermis. It includes sweat glands, hair shafts, blood vessels, and nerves.

- Subcutis: This the deepest layer of the skin. It contains fat and protein that help your body to keep in heat and absorb shocks to protect the body’s organs from injuries.


Skin Tumors that aren't Cancer

You should know that most skin tumors are not cancers (these are benign); and they rarely turn into cancer. Some of them include:

- Mole (Also called nevus) - a benign tumor that starts from melanocytes. Almost any person has some moles. Most of them are harmless while some can still increase the risk of melanoma.

- Spitz nevus - a type of mole that often looks like melanoma, but it really isn't.

- Hemangioma - a benign blood vessel growth; doctors call it wine stain or strawberry spot.

- Wart - a growth with a rough–surface, usually caused by a virus.

- Lipoma - a soft growth made up of fat cells.


Melanoma Skin Cancer

As mentioned earlier, melanoma is a cancer that starts in the melanocyte cells. As most of these cells produce melanin, the melanoma tumors are often of brown or black color; though sometimes, melanoma can be tan, pink or white. Usually melanoma appears on the chest or back in men; women face it more often on the legs; but it can also appear in other places. Dark-skinned people have less risk of getting melanoma than those with lighter skin. Melanoma doesn't appear often, compared to squamous or basal cell cancers, but it's considered to be more dangerous. At early stages, melanoma can be successfully cured. If not, it’s likely to spread to other parts of body, which makes the treatment more difficult. If you want to make sure you do not have melanoma, contact our doctors and physicians.