Melanocytes, found in the basal layer of the epidermis, are the melanin-producing cells that give pigment to the skin, hair, and eyes. When melanocytes develop normally, they have a typical life cycle, that is, their growth is regulated. The occurrence of a genetic mutation (due to DNA damage), can lead to a breakdown in normal behavior and trigger uncontrolled growth. When this happens, it can give rise to a malignant melanoma.
Although melanoma it is not the most common form of skin cancer, it is the most fatal. In the United States, an estimated 120,000 new cases are diagnosed each year. As a top New York skin cancer expert, Dr. Gary Goldenberg has treated numerous cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Because melanoma is one of the more rare and deadly forms of skin cancer, it is absolutely imperative to recognize the signs and symptoms of melanoma early.
Like other forms of skin cancer, melanoma is mainly caused by overexposure to ultraviolet light (UV), which is found in sunlight and tanning beds. Fair skin, frequent sunburns, having a large number of moles, as well as a family history of melanoma can be risk factors. However, UV light is not the sole cause of melanoma and cannot account for growths found in areas of the body that are not exposed to sunlight. In these cases, some other contributing factors, such as a compromised immune system and family history of melanoma, are likely at play. Cellular function can be adversely affected by other environmental risks.
Moles, freckles, and other skin growths are common and often harmless. Melanomas bear a close resemblance to moles and sometimes develop from moles. Often they are black or brown, but can be pink, red, or bluish. New moles and changes in existing ones can potentially signal skin cancer development. Because the best way to screen for early signs of melanoma is to monitor change, it is essential to familiarize yourself with your skin. Symptoms of melanoma can appear on any part of the skin, particularly those areas most exposed to sunlight. The following ABCDE signs provide a basic guideline for identifying potential melanoma:
Prompt diagnosis and treatment is the key to preventing the advancement of melanoma. When removed in its early stages, melanoma has a higher cure rate. Unfortunately, once it spreads to other parts of the body, melanoma is difficult to treat and becomes a serious, potentially fatal disease. Treatment options depend on the size and stage of cancer.
Dr. Goldenberg, a top dermatologist and dermatopathologist in NYC, recognizes the signs and stages of melanoma, and understands the clinical and emotional implications of melanoma diagnosis. If you notice a suspicious lesion, or have not had an annual dermatology screening, contact Dr. Goldenberg for a consultation as soon as possible.