The Victorians had the right idea when they advised us to stay out of the sun and keep the skin covered as much as possible. It has long been known that excessive exposure to the sun is dangerous and can cause skin cancer, the most dangerous, but least common of these is Melanoma.
The skin is the largest organ in the human body and its purpose is to protect against injury to the internal organs, excessive heat, infections, as the body’s water storage, temperature regulator and it also assist in the manufacture of Vitamin D with the aid of the sun.
Melanocytes, are cells located in the bottom layer of the epidermis which is the uppermost layer of the skin, (it can also be found in the middle of the eye). Melanocytes are responsible for the production of melanin which gives the skin its pigment and protects it from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun.
Melanoma may first appear on the skin as a new mole, an old birthmark which develop characteristic changes, or it may appear as a blemish which refuses to heal, on previously unmarked skin. In the majority of cases the affected areas may appear as either black or brown, or it can also present as pink or red patches which has an abnormal appearance. Unlike the normal mole or birthmark, melanomas can change colour, and can either be lumpy, round, crusty, ooze or bleed. The deadliest form is said to have an irregular border which can increase in size over a period of time.
Early detection is seen as the strongest and most most effective weapon in the fight against melanoma and if treated early, before it has had a chance to affect the internal organs of the body, then all the evidence suggest that there is a good chance that it can be cured.
The first step is usually to have the Melanoma surgically removed. This can generally be done under a local anaesthetic and any scaring can be easily rectified with plastic surgery. Surgery is usually followed by a course of chemotherapy, much of which can be taken orally. In common uses are a group of drugs called anti-anpiogenics which have proven effective in inhibiting the growth of new blood vessels, thereby preventing the spread and development of new tumours. New treatments are constantly being developed, including Magnet Resonance Imaging (MRI) which is used in conjunction with radiographic techniques.
The sun we know plays a central role, however it is not exclusively responsible for the development of melanomas. There are scientific evidence to support the idea that genetic predisposition can be a significant factor in developing the disease. Sun worshipers are advised to check into their genetic background and to routinely check their skin on a regular basis for signs of unusual or abnormal skin leisions, especially those which may appear for no obvious reason. New moles, or sores which are not healing, especially those which appear in the areas most exposed to the sunlight, must be regarded with suspicion and monitored for abnormalities.
The American Skin Cancer Association (ASCA) say that on average 8000 men and women will die from invasive melanoma in the US each year with men being more susceptible to developing the disease than their female counterparts. It is worth noting that the disease is not found exclusively amongst Caucasians. Each year a small number of African-Americans and Asians are also diagnosed with the disease.
Scientists recommend the used of head protectors and sun block lotions with the SPF 15 (Sun Protection Factor) if it is to be effective in protecting the skin against the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun.