What is melanoma, main types and treatment

Melanoma is a type of malignant cancer that develops very quickly on the skin and, therefore, can easily affect other organs through metastases, when treatment is not started quickly.

This type of cancer starts in the melanocytes, which are the skin cells responsible for the production of melanin, the substance that gives color to the skin. Thus, melanoma is more frequent when there are frequent lesions in these cells, which can happen mainly due to prolonged exposure to the sun and, mainly, sunburn.

Unlike most types of cancer, melanoma appears on the skin and, therefore, can be easy to identify early, facilitating treatment and increasing the chances of a cure. Therefore, it is necessary that the person is attentive to changes in the skin, especially the appearance or growth of signs, making a complete inspection at least every 1 or 2 months.

Main types of melanoma

The type of melanoma varies according to the place of appearance and its form of development, with the main 4 types being:

  • Superficial extensive melanoma: it is the most common type of melanoma that initially develops in the most superficial cells of the skin, taking longer to reach other organs;
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma: initially affects the most superficial layers of the skin, especially the palms, soles of the feet and nails, being the most common melanoma in blacks, Asians and Hispanics;
  • Malignant lentigo melanoma: observed in areas that are more exposed to the sun, such as face, neck and back of hands, usually in the elderly;
  • Nodular melanoma: it is the most aggressive type of melanoma, affecting other parts of the body from the beginning. It starts as a raised black, bluish or bluish red spot.

The easiest types to cure completely are those that develop in the most superficial layers of the skin, provided they are diagnosed at a less advanced stage. When the cancer begins to reach deeper layers or other organs, treatment is more difficult and the chances of a cure are less.

In more rare cases, melanoma can also develop in the mucous membranes of the vagina, esophagus, anus or intestines and also in the eyes, in which case it is called orbital melanoma.

Can melanoma cure?

Melanoma has a high cure rate when it has not yet developed elsewhere in the body and when the diagnosis is made as soon as the first sign appears. Therefore, it is very important to frequently observe the signs and skin spots, looking for changes.

In addition, patients who have already had some type of skin cancer or who have direct family members with this history should go to the dermatologist, as they have a higher risk.

Who is most at risk for melanoma

In addition to exposure to the sun and frequent sunburn, melanoma can also be caused by any other type of exposure to UV rays, such as tanning beds, for example. This is because this type of light is able to penetrate cells and can cause malignant changes that lead to the growth of cancer.

However, melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, even if protected from UV light and, therefore, even though it is more rare, it can also develop in those who avoid sun exposure, being related to family, genetic and environmental factors.

Some factors that seem to increase the risk of developing melanoma include:

  • Have blue eyes, fair skin and blond hair;
  • Difficulty tanning;
  • Make it easy to get freckles;
  • Having a family history of skin cancer;
  • Having a disease that affects the immune system.

People with 1 or more of these factors should make regular visits to the dermatologist to make a complete skin assessment, in order to identify possible changes that may be an early sign of cancer.

How the treatment is done

The treatment for this type of cancer should be guided by an oncologist or dermatologist, because depending on the degree of development, it may be necessary only to have surgery to remove the tumor and achieve a cure, or it may be necessary to do other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, to eliminate the cancer cells that remain on the skin, even after removing the stain.

If metastases are present, chemotherapy and radiation therapy should be started as soon as possible. However, success rates are relatively low, as metastases appear in more advanced stages of cancer.

Learn more about the different ways of treating melanoma.