Melanoma is a form of skin cancer which, although it accounts for only 1% of all skin cancers, is the leading cause of death from skin diseases. Its incidence rate is on the rise, making this condition a growing threat to skin health.
## What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of tumor that arises from melanocytes, the cells responsible for the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to the skin. Due to a genetic mutation, these cells begin to grow and multiply uncontrollably, forming an abnormal mass of cells known as a tumor.
The most dangerous feature of melanoma is its ability to rapidly spread to other organs and tissues in the body (metastasize) if not diagnosed and treated promptly. This feature makes it one of the deadliest tumors.
## How does Melanoma develop?
Melanoma can develop on apparently healthy skin or from a pre-existing mole. It often has an irregular appearance, with jagged edges and variable colouration. It can occur anywhere on the body, but is more common in sun-exposed areas.
There are several types of melanoma, including superficial melanoma that spreads, nodular melanoma, lentigo maligna melanoma, and acral lentiginous melanoma. Each of these has specific characteristics and may require different treatment approaches.
## Risk factors
There are a number of risk factors associated with developing melanoma, including exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, both natural (sun) and man-made (tanning beds), fair skin, having many moles, a family history of melanoma and a weakened immune system.
## Prevention of Melanoma
Prevention is the best defense against melanoma. It is advisable to protect yourself from UV rays by avoiding exposure to the sun during the hottest hours, by wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses and using a sunscreen with a high protection factor.
Self-screening is another key element in the prevention of melanoma. It is advisable to check the skin regularly, looking for changes in the shape, size or color of the moles.
Finally, regular visits to the dermatologist are essential, especially for people at risk. These specialists can identify the early signs of melanoma and take appropriate action.
Melanoma is a growing threat, but with greater awareness of the risks, careful prevention and prompt recognition, we can defend ourselves against this disease. Remember, the health of your skin is in your hands.