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Melanoma Serious Cancer Symptoms and Signs who is Affected?

3D structure of a melanoma cell from national-cancer-institute-p1zy6izFI0M-unsplash melanoma serious cancer

Last updated 06/15/2023

It develops as a life threating malignant tumor. Most importantly, it is known to spread. After that, treatment can be difficult with a possible poor outlook. Melanoma serious cancer, what to know.

This skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body. However, in men the most common area is the back. And the case with women is their legs. Melanomas are uncommon on the buttocks and the scalp which are usually protected from sun exposure.

With most cases of melanoma, they are irregular shaped and have more than one color. A mole can present larger than normal and occasionally feel itchy or bleed.

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What is Melanoma?

The most serious kind of skin cancer is melanoma. It occurs in your melanocytes (cells that make melanin) and these are responsible for your skin color. Due to these cells being throughout your body this cancer can also develop in your eyes. And this is rare, inside your body like the nose or throat.

Melanoma can present in any area:

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Skin under fingernails/toenails
  • Genitals
  • Soles of your feet
  • Palms of your hands

In other words, it can occur deep into the skin and be referred to as invasive melanoma. Further, it can invade blood vessels as it spreads to lymph nodes and other areas of the body. This is known as metastatic melanoma.

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Melanocytes and their Purpose

Melanocytes are your protective cells located in the basal layer of the epidermis that create melanin. Melanin provides these functions in your body. This is a dark pigment that gives the color to your hair, skin and eyes. Therefore, everyone has these cells.

So, the melanocytes are in your skin, but you may not realize in your brain, inner ear, heart and eye. The hue of your hair and skin depends on how active the melanocytes are. For instance, with the condition albinism the cells are there but they are inhibited from creating more pigment.

Typically, they are covered up beneath the surface skin. Ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure can encourage more melanin to be made.  As a result, sunburn or suntan.

What is Melanoma Monday?

Melanoma Monday is observed on the first Monday of May (remember MMM). It is part of the campaign for Melanoma Awareness Month.

The American Academy of Dermatologist founded National Melanoma Monday. And it has at least been observed since 1984.

Further, to kick off the month focus is aimed at skin health, sun safety, tanning prevention and skin cancer screening. Therefore, providing resources and information, the hope is to bring the number of melanomas diagnosed down.

Symptoms and Signs of Melanoma

Recall your ABCDEs for skin cancer. These are often the first warning signs. Most importantly, changes can develop in a mole you already have. Likewise, melanoma can present as a new or unusual looking mole.


Asymmetry refers to the shape of the lesion. One half of the mole is not matching the other side.


The edges enclosing it are ragged, notched, uneven or blurred.


Pigment could be areas of black, brown and tan. In addition, there can be some white, gray, red or even blue.

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Melanoma can usually spread more than 6 millimeters. For instance, the size could be like your pencil eraser. That is to say, melanoma can be smaller when it is first discovered.


Your mole has altered its size, shape or color. It could be growing in a location that had normal skin prior. Furthermore, when melanoma occurs in a mole already present, the mole texture can transform to become hard or lumpy.

The skin lesion can have a different sensation and can itch, ooze or bleed. However, a melanoma skin lesion typically isn’t painful.

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Melanoma Serious Cancer Cause

Sun exposure (UV radiation) or tanning lamps and beds can increase your risk for melanoma. This risk for melanoma tends to be increasing, more so in women younger than 40. Being aware of the warning signs of skin cancer will aid in detecting twists and seeking treatment before it spreads.

UV Light and Skin Cancer

UV light is a known carcinogen (meaning it can cause cancer). Every time UV light encounters your skin it can injure some of the DNA inside. Your body makes an effort to repair the damage.

However, if this injury is more than your body can take care of skin cells change (mutations). When these mutations build up, skin cancer can occur.

The skin cancer type depends on which cells have mutations. In the case with melanoma the mutated cells are called melanocytes.

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People at Higher Risk for Melanoma

No Sun Protection

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association everyone should protect their skin from the sun. This can be done by wearing sun protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants.

Every day, and this is essential, apply sunscreen before adventuring outside. Most importantly, sunscreen should be broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or above, and water-resistance.

Visit Tanning Beds or use Indoor Tanning Equipment

These can have stronger UV light than the sun. Above all, when you don’t use this equipment your risk of all skin cancers decreases.

You had Blistering Sunburns

If your skin blistered, you had a 3rd degree burn. This is the worse type of sunburn.

Fair Skin, Light-colored eyes, Natural red/blonde hair

  • Skin easily burns and rarely tans
  • Your skin freckles from the sun
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Naturally blonde or red hair

Over Age 50

Being age 50 or older makes your risk for melanoma higher. But some younger individuals have developed melanoma.

Specific Moles

Moles are usually harmless. But you can be at increased risk for melanoma if you have:

  • 50 or additional moles
  • A mole that spreads over a large area
  • 1 or more atypical mole (not perfectly round shape, different colors or has a jagged edge)

Weakened Immune System

When your immune system is weak this increases your risk for melanoma. Certain medications can do this like drugs used to keep your body from rejecting an organ transplant. Medical conditions including HIV can weaken the body’s immune system.

Had Melanoma or another Skin Cancer

You already had melanoma, or another form of skin cancer means UV light has badly damaged your skin. This puts you at more risk for developing other skin cancers as well as melanoma.

Breast or Thyroid Cancer

Some other cancers besides skin cancer can raise your risk of developing melanoma. For example, breast cancers and thyroid cancers.

There have been studies on a connection between melanoma and thyroid cancer. To clarify the transformation of a certain gene, MEK-ERK-MAP kinase pathway. And 3 BRAF shifts reported with several human cancers, the dominant being melanoma (66%) and dysplastic nevi (82%).

Likewise, a study found a connection with a mutated BRCA2 gene and a mutation on the melanoma gene, CDKN2A. BRCA2 gene gives a higher risk for developing breast cancer. Furthermore, having both these genes increases the development for other cancers versus those who don’t have these altered genes.

Blood Relative had Melanoma

This is rare, but it can run in a family. Certain people inherit genes for melanoma, if a close blood relative had this type.

Have Xeroderma Pigmentosum

This is an extremely rare condition. It causes a person’s skin to lose the ability to repair damage from UV light. Because the body can’t repair UV damage, XP is estimated to raise the risk for skin cancer about 10,000 more.

Xeroderma pigmentosum is a disease where people develop severe sunburns, blistering and freckling in response to brief sunlight. The skin is extremely sensitive. In addition, the eyes can occur with light sensitivity, corneal clouding, and swelling. Certain people with XP can have nervous system involvement also.

dermatologist checking woman's mole on her neck bermix-studio-PNdOpC-6q-I-unsplash melanoma serious cancer

Who does Melanoma Affect?

Although some people are at higher risk for melanoma anyone can be affected. So, it’s important to remember people of all skin colors from the palest to the darkest can develop melanoma.

Those of color usually develop melanoma on the bottom of the foot, palm of the hand or the nail. It can present beneath or around the nail. Further, it is believed that UV light isn’t involved in these cancers.

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is seen over 20 times more in Caucasians versus African Americans. But a number of different factors can be involved with each individual. This cancer is observed more overall in men. However, the rates increase in women compared to men before age 50.

The risk for melanoma increases as people age. When people are diagnosed the average age is 65. Certainly, it is not uncommon even in those under 30 years old. That is to say, this cancer is one of the usual cancers in adults (especially young women).

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Wrapping it up

Melanoma is the serious cancer although it may not be common. It can spread quickly to other areas of the body. However, once it does this it becomes more difficult to treat.

This cancer develops in your melanocytes, cells responsible for your skin pigment. Everyone has these cells, but some can have fewer active melanocytes. In conclusion, your risk can play a factor in developing melanoma, anyone can be affected.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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