What is Melanoma?
 Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It begins in cells in the skin called melanocytes. To understand melanoma, it is helpful to know about the skin and about melanocytes—what they do, how they grow, and what happens when they become cancerous.
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. It helps regulate body temperature, stores water and fat, and produces vitamin D.
The skin has two main layers: the outer epidermis and the inner dermis:
The epidermis is mostly made up of flat, scalelike cells called squamous cells. Round cells called basal cells lie under the squamous cells in the epidermis. The lower part of the epidermis also contains melanocytes.
The dermis contains blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles, and glands. Some of these glands produce sweat, which helps regulate body temperature. Other glands produce sebum, an oily substance that helps keep the skin from drying out. Sweat and sebum reach the skin’s surface through tiny openings called pores.
Melanocytes and Moles
Melanocytes produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken.
Sometimes, clusters of melanocytes and surrounding tissue form noncancerous growths called moles. (Doctors also call a mole a nevus; the plural is nevi.) Moles are very common. Most people have between 10 and 40 moles. Moles may be pink, tan, brown, or a color that is very close to the person’s normal skin tone. People who have dark skin tend to have dark moles. Moles can be flat or raised. They are usually round or oval and smaller than a pencil eraser. They may be present at birth or may appear later on—usually before age 40. They tend to fade away in older people. When moles are surgically removed, they normally do not return.
Cancer begins in cells, the building blocks that make up tissues. Tissues make up the organs of the body. Normally, cells grow and divide to form new cells as the body needs them. When cells grow old, they die, and new cells take their place.
Sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. New cells form when the body does not need them, and old cells do not die when they should. These extra cells can form a mass of tissue called a growth or tumor. Not all tumors are cancer.
Tumors can be benign or malignant:
Benign tumors are not cancer:
They are rarely life threatening.
Usually, benign tumors can be removed, and they seldom grow back.
Cells from benign tumors do not spread to tissues around them or to other parts of the body.
Malignant tumors are cancer:
They are generally more serious and may be life threatening.
Malignant tumors usually can be removed, but they can grow back.
Cells from malignant tumors can invade and damage nearby tissues and organs. Also, cancer cells can break away from a malignant tumor and enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system. That is how cancer cells spread from the original cancer (the primary tumor) to form new tumors in other organs. The spread of cancer is called metastasis. Different types of cancer tend to spread to different parts of the body.
Q. Can melanoma be cured?
A. When detected in its earliest stages, melanoma is highly curable. The average five-year survival rate for individuals whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent.1
Early detection is essential; there is a direct correlation between the thickness of the melanoma and survival rate. Dermatologists recommend a regular self-examination of the skin to detect changes in its appearance. Additionally, patients with risk factors should have a complete skin examination by a dermatologist annually. Anyone with a changing, suspicious or unusual mole or blemish should be examined as soon as possible. Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam at least annually and perform monthly self-exams for new and changing moles.12
Q. Can melanoma be prevented?
A.  Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.1,13 You can have fun in the sun and decrease your risk of skin cancer. Here's how to Be Sun Smart®:
Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. "Broad-spectrum" provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.
Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.
Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don't seek the sun.6
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you've been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see us, at Water’s Edge. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early