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Health Information For Teens
Melanoma (pronounced: mel-eh-NOE-muh) is a type of cancer that begins in a melanocyte (pronounced: meh-LAN-uh-site), a cell in the top layer of skin (the epidermis). Melanocytes make melanin (pronounced MEL-eh-nun), the pigment that gives skin its color.
Melanoma also can develop in other parts of the body, like the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anal area.
Often, melanoma begins as a mole or a bump on the skin. It’s important to know if a mole has changed in size, shape, or color.
Keep this ABCDE rule in mind when checking moles:
Melanoma most commonly develops on the trunk, head, and neck for guys, and the lower legs for girls.
One of the most important contributors to melanoma is ultraviolet (UV) sun damage. Cells that have been damaged — particularly by short bouts of bad, blistering sunburns during childhood or regular tanning bed use as a teen or young adult — are more likely to become cancerous over time.
Sometimes melanoma begins in an area where there is no dark spot or bump.
Melanoma happens when melanocytes stop working normally. Because of a genetic change (mutation), they begin growing out of control, sticking together to form tumors, crowding out healthy cells, and damaging surrounding tissue.
Risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of melanoma include:
Though less likely, people can still get melanoma even if they’re young, have no family history of cancer, or have dark skin.
The doctor will do a biopsy, removing all or part of the lesion (the affected area of skin) and look at its cells under a microscope. A biopsy shows if the cells are cancerous. It can also show how deep they are in the skin, which can help doctors predict the risk of the melanoma spreading.
Melanoma treatment can include:
The treatment chosen depends on:
Melanoma that’s caught early, when it’s still on the surface of the skin, can be cured.
Untreated melanoma can grow downward into the skin until it reaches the blood vessels and lymphatic system. This lets it travel to distant organs, like the lungs or the brain. That’s why early detection is so important.
You can’t control how fair your skin is or whether you have a relative with cancerous moles. But there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing melanoma. The most important is limiting your exposure to the sun.
Take these precautions:
Also, be sure to check your moles often (you may need to ask a friend to help with those hard-to-reach areas, like your back and scalp). Keep dated records of each mole’s location, size, shape, and color, and get anything suspicious checked out right away.
Not all skin cancer is melanoma, but every case of melanoma is serious. So now that you know more about it, take responsibility for protecting yourself and do what you can to lower your risk.
You can find more information online at:
Tanning beds are no safer than the sun — and may be even more dangerous. Read this article to get the details, and to find out what is safe when it comes to getting that golden glow.
The sun can do a lot more than just give you a warm summer glow. Get the facts on sun and skin damage – and what you can do to protect yourself and still look tan.
It’s unusual for teens to have cancer, but it can happen. The good news is that most will survive and return to their everyday lives. Learn about how to cope if you or someone you know has cancer.
Sometimes it may seem like your skin is impossible to manage, especially when you find a huge zit on your nose or a cold sore at the corner of your mouth. Here are ways to prevent and treat common skin problems.
Visit our Cancer Center for teens to get information and advice on treating and coping with cancer.
Want to avoid summer hazards so you can focus on the fun? This center offers tips for teens.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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