Three Types of skin cancer exist: Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Melanoma is the most serious and potentially life threatening of the three. Melanoma can spread extremely rapidly, which makes it the most vicious type of skin cancer. However, melanomas that are detected early are almost 100% treatable.
Melanoma is most often caused by sun exposure. Excessive exposure to the sun in childhood or the use of UV radiation in sunbeds increase your risk of developing melanomas later in life.
There are a number of types of melanoma, but these four are the most common forms:
Superficial Spreading Melanoma (SSM)
The most common type of melanoma, SSM is usually found on your legs, arms, chest or back. This form of melanoma grows slowly at first, and eventually spreads out across the surface of the skin. It is equally common in men and women, but appears most commonly on fair skin. It is far more common with greater age, with only 15% of SSMs occurring in patients under the age of 40.
The second most common form of melanoma, Nodular Melanomas are usually located on the chest, head, neck or back. Anyone can develop a Nodular Melanoma but it is seen most frequently in men over the age of 50. People with fair skin and have multiple moles on their body are at the highest risk of contracting this form of melanoma.This kind of melanoma progresses rapidly and can grow deep in the local tissue within a few months.
Lentigo Maligna Melanoma (LMM)
Less common than the others, LMM is usually found on older people or people who have had high levels of sun exposure throughout their lifetimes. LMM is often found on the face and neck, and typically is slower to grow and thus less dangerous than the other forms of melanoma.
Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM)
ALM is the rarest type of melanoma and most often seen on people with black or brown skin. It is not believed to be related to sun exposure. ALM typically appears on the palms, soles of the feet, or under the fingernails or toenails.
There are rare occasions in which melanoma can appear in parts of the body other than the skin, such as the eye, or the tissue that lines body regions such as the nose, mouth, lungs, rectum or other areas.
How to protect yourself against Skin Cancer
The best way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to limit your skin’s exposure to the sun. Avoid burning by staying out of direct sunlight in the middle of the day, especially in the warmer months. Cover your skin, wear a hat and sunglasses and apply sunscreen regularly when outdoors.
Checking your skin regularly is important for tracking changes in moles or lesions and detecting suspicious changes early. Check your skin a minimum of every three months, and make sure you check all parts of your body, using a mirror or two in the areas that you can’t see regularly.
Early detection is the best form of protection. If you notice any changes in a mole or lesion see your dermatologist or schedule a Skin Surveillance Program appointment with MoleSafe as soon as you can.