By Chris King • 23 May 2023 • 17:08
Image of a dermatologist checking for melanoma.
Credit: Alexander Raths/Shutterstock.com
Today, Tuesday, May 23 is recognised as a global day of awareness called World Day Against Melanoma.
Melanoma is one of the most severe types of skin cancer, responsible for around 4 per cent of malignant skin tumours worldwide and produces one of the highest mortality rates.
Melanin is the pigment that gives colour to a person’s skin and the cancer attacks and grows in cells known as melanocytes that produce the melanin.
Scientists have yet to fully establish what causes melanoma but they warn that anybody who exposes their skin to the dangerous ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) for prolonged periods could be prone to developing the disease.
Early detection of the condition can lead to successful treatment of it. Normal symptoms include an unusual growth on the skin or a change in the colour of skin pigmentation or existing moles.
It can also be caused by genetic history. If not stopped in time, this disease can quickly spread to other parts of the body and other tissues.
Regarding its incidence, it is important to note that Spain is an exception in Europe. In the vast majority of European countries, men are more susceptible to melanoma but it is the opposite in Spain, where women have a higher incidence.
A difference that is also worth mentioning is that in women it is more frequent for melanoma to appear on the legs and arms, while in the case of men, it tends to be more frequent on the torso, neck, and head.
The average age of the patient diagnosed with melanoma is 65 years. Although this does not exempt people of all ages from contracting the disease.
In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in young adults which could possibly be blamed on young people being more obsessive about getting a tan.
Skin colour and pigmentation also have a lot to do with melanoma. Using the diverse range of cultures spread across the United States, it is the perfect statistical location from which to judge the incidence of this cancer based on racial differences. Melanoma is said to be more than 20 times more frequent in white people than in black people there.
Among the Hispanic population, cases were also distributed according to the gradient of skin colour, making people with lighter skin noticeably more vulnerable, as reported by larazon.es.
However, this does not mean that dark-skinned people are immune to the disease. Dermatologists warn that people of all skin colours need to use sunscreen and protect against ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.
According to the Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC) we can be guided by a mnemonic rule, which can help us to identify whether a mole could be a melanoma and if, consequently, we should go to the dermatologist to confirm its malignant nature.
It insists that all we need to do is to remember the letters ‘ABCDE’, which stand for:
Benign moles have a spheroidal shape on our body, whereas melanomas have an abnormal shape, devoid of any symmetry.
The borders of a melanoma are irregular, with jagged shapes and frequently appear blurred.
Moles are a lighter or darker brown colour, but always homogeneous. In contrast, a melanoma presents different shades. It can have areas of black, brown, white, grey, red, or even blue.
Many people have large moles, but they are usually there from childhood. On the other hand, if we see that a new mole larger than 6 millimetres has appeared or if we observe that it is growing in size, it is important that we pay attention to it and consult a dermatologist as soon as possible.
All of the above features are common to melanomas. However, the most characteristic thing is that they are not static, but rather evolve over time. Therefore, if a mole that was already present begins to vary in size, colour, or thickness, we should suspect that something could be wrong.
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Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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