Melanoma is not seen much, but it is the most threatening type of skin cancer. It develops when un-repaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, which then lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and eventually form malignant tumors. These tumors form in the pigment — producing melanocytes residing in the basal layer of the epidermis. This cancer is triggered through intense UV radiation exposure and in those who genetically inherited the trait. Everyone is at risk for melanoma, but increased risks appear in people exposed to more sun, number of moles on the skin, skin types and family history.

About one in every 10 patients diagnosed with the disease has a family member with a history of melanoma. It is recommended that an individual should perform self-examination tests to observe if there are any new moles. It is crucial to do this because though it is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and if caught early, melanoma can almost always be completely cured. The longer someone waits, the more the cancer will advance to the reset of your body, eventually becoming fatal.

Melanomas resemble moles, creates new moles and produces unusual growth or a change in existing moles. There are four basic types of melanoma: superficial spreading melanoma, Lentigo Melanoma, Acral Lentiginous Melanoma and Nodular Melanoma. Out of these four, three of them begin in situ, meaning they only occupy the top layers of the skin, and the other is invasive from the start, which is a lot more dangerous. Just like other forms of cancer, melanoma comes in stages. The majority of these melanoma are black and brown, but can be seen as skin color, red, white, purple or pink. Treatment may involve surgery, radiation, medication or in some cases, chemotherapy. Annually, this disease causes about 10,131 annual deaths in the U.S.

Usually in a stable environment of homeostasis, healthy new skin cells are pushed to the surface of the skin, die and are replaced. In melanoma, these cells develop DNA damage, new cells grow out of control and a mass of cancerous cells form. Since melanoma is present in the melanocytes, which aren’t as present as the basal and squamous cells, it isn’t as common. However, this means that the cancer is deeper in the body which makes it more dangerous.

Superficial spreading melanoma is found on the chest and back for men and the legs for women. They usually start off growing slowly but quickly spread as they’re exposed.

Nodular melanoma is the second most common type that’s found on the head or neck. It’s the fastest growing which is why it’s one of the most important to quickly control.

Lentigo maligna melanoma is usually found in older people and is related to sun exposure. I t’s extremely slow growing and starts off looking as a stain of the skin because of the gradual pace.

Acral melanoma is the rarest type and is often found in people with black or brown skin. It isn’t thought to be related to sun exposure though and instead is found on surfaces of the body where light generally doesn’t reach. Acral Melanoma is found in the mucous membranes and starts off as lesions.

With over a multitude of aspects to the enigma that is melanoma, people are more at risk than ever before. Focusing in on this issue, my HOSA project for this year targets our age group who can't seem to stop tanning. While it is a chore, the small things like remembering to put on sunscreen and wearing a wide brim hat can be great protectors from the deadly UV rays hitting our body. Staying sun safe is the best way to gain protection from the things we may or may not be able to control.