Overview & Epidemiology of Melanoma

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that arises due to the uncontrollable growth of melanocytes (pigmented cells). Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer among men and women in the United States. The superficial spreading melanoma is the most common subtype accounting for 55-60% of all melanomas. 

Risk factors of Melanoma

The exact cause of melanoma is unknown, however, some identified risk factors include family history, personal history of melanoma, basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, sun exposure, pale complexion, immunosuppressive states, and having multiple moles or atypical navi. 


Clinical features of Melanoma

Patients may notice newly formed moles or changes in their pre-existing moles, which are often pruritic and easily bleeding. Melanoma development is not limited to sun-exposed areas, it can be found in any area of the body. 


Diagnosis of Melanoma

To diagnose melanoma, a detailed history and skin examination are required. A skin examination should evaluate whether a lesion shows one or more characteristics suggesting melanoma including the ABCDE (asymmetry, Irregular border, Color variations, Diameter greater than 6 mm, Elevated surface) assessment. Also, a comparison of individual nevus patterns and changes in preexisting lesions in size, color, or shape. It is necessary to perform a full-thickness biopsy for a definitive melanoma diagnosis.


Management of Melanoma

Melanoma at its early stage is often treated surgically by local excision combined with sentinel lymph node biopsy or elective node dissection. The treatment for advanced melanomas includes surgery, medical treatment, and radiation therapy.
If left untreated, melanoma can be life-threatening. It is estimated that 17% of patients develop metastatic disease. Early detection and treatment are essential for successful outcomes.


Prevention of Melanoma

There is no doubt that identifying and eliminating causes and risk factors for melanoma plays a crucial role in prevention. Sun protection, avoiding tanning beds, regular screenings, and early detection of skin changes are key components of preventing melanoma. Education and awareness about melanoma clinical features and risk factors are also vital for early diagnosis and successful treatment.


Written by

Ghida Altammami, medical student


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