Melanoma. The body contains skin cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin, which is what gives skin it's color. It also does it's best to protect the deep layers of the skin from harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays because if the skin gets exposed to too much of that, those little cells become damaged and turn cancerous.
If you have a mole and it changes color, shape or size, that may be a sign of this disorder. Careful, though! It can also appear as a brand new mole. Check your skin everywhere regularly for these telltale spots, especially as you get older and your chance for getting this cancerous condition increases.
Men might notice them on the head and neck, and anywhere between their hips and shoulders
Women might develop it on the lower legs
It often appears on the soles of feet, palms of hands and under fingernails and toenails in people of color
If you notice any of the following, go see your doctor:
Seek treatment quickly, as melanoma is easy to treat in it's early stages and you'll have a better chance for recovery. Don't let it metastasize, that could get ugly because by then it will have grown deeper into the skin and spread throughout the body. At this point, it is very difficult to treat.
If you're fair-skinned, your skin cells produce less melanin, so there is less protection against the harmful rays from the sun and you have a higher risk for melanoma. It's a good practice to avoid the sun and tanning beds as much as possible.
Also, it is more common in those who live in places like the Southwest portion of the USA, where the sun emits lots of UV radiation.
You're also at risk for this condition if you have:
- Lots of freckles or moles
- Severe, blistering sunburns as a child or adult
- A family history of melanoma, or you have had it in the past
- Non-cancerous, unusual looking moles
- A weakened immune system
Be sure to wear sunscreen and parents, make sure your kids wear it too. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses that wrap around the sides of the face to protect the eyes. Good skincare habits are key! Make sure you check your skin for moles regularly.