Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that accounts for only 2 to 4% of all skin cancer cases, yet 79% of all skin cancer related deaths.
In 2011, there were an estimated 960,231 people living with melanoma of the skin in the United States.
Despite its deadly nature, when melanoma is diagnosed early it is considered very survivable. According to the data from SEER 18 (2004-2010), 91.3% of early diagnosed melanoma cases survive without recurrence at the 5 year mark.
The incidence for melanoma is currently increasing at a rate of 3% per year, the fastest of any cancer.
Although the incidence of melanoma is highest among older adults, it can occur in any age group. For example, it is the most common cancer among women age 20-30.
A number of risk factors are known to be associated with melanoma, primarily based on genetics (such as skin tone, eye color and hair color), level of sunburn and tanning, and genetic risk factors.
Among the most well-established risk factors include:
Other known risk factors include:
Physical Exam Melanomas can occur in sun exposed skin, as well as areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the abdomen, soles of the feet and genital areas. Despite a fair complexion and white genetic profile there is one type of melanoma that is found more frequently in African Americans and Asians, which occurs on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and nailbeds, called Acral lentiginous melanoma.
Biopsy A procedure to remove the abnormal tissue and a small amount of normal tissue around it. A pathologist will examine the biopsied tissue microscopically. Patients may want to have the sample of tissue checked by a second pathologist. If the abnormal mole or lesion is malignant, the sample of tissue may also be tested for certain gene changes.
Cancer staging and classification Staging is the process of finding out how much cancer there is in a person’s body and where it’s located. Melanoma stages are assigned based on the size or thickness of the tumor, whether or not it has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs, and certain other characteristics, such as growth rate. Physical exams, imaging procedures, laboratory tests, pathology reports, and surgical reports provide information to determine the stage of a cancer. Very thin melanomas (<.75 mm in thickness), are associated with very high cure rates from surgery alone, so early diagnosis is very valuable.
Genetic Evaluation Genetic evaluation may be recommended, as a number of genetic mutations have been associated with prognosis (outlook) and help to predict how beneficial different treatments may be.
Multiple nutritional supplements have been associated with reduced cancer incidence and/or cancer progression. The list below contains those with the greatest evidence-base and benefit, though it is not necessary that they all be included.
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