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Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease. It involves cells called melanocytes, which produce a skin pigment called melanin. Melanin is responsible for skin and hair color. The most dangerous form of skin cancer, these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations (genetic defects) that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.
The first step in the treatment of melanoma is prevention. The best way to prevent melanoma is to avoid sunburn and sun exposure in both children and adults. Just getting one bad blistering sunburn during childhood raises the risk of developing melanoma. The exact cause of all melanomas isn't clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk of melanoma.
The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early. Melanoma is often preventable by protecting children and adults from sunburn and excessive sun exposure. However, melanoma can develop anywhere on the body on the skin, even places that are not exposed to sun and sunburns.
Having darkly pigmented skin lowers your risk of melanoma at these more common sites, but anyone can develop this cancer on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and under the nails. Melanomas in these areas account for more than half of all melanomas in African Americans but fewer than 1 in 10 melanomas in whites.Melanomas can also form in other parts of your body such as the eyes, mouth, genitals, and anal area, but these are much less common than melanoma of the skin.