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Melanoma: How to Prevent and Recognize It Early

As the summer season approaches, the need to take precautions when exposing oneself to the sun for a desirable tan returns. In light of the increase in melanoma cases that several researchers have observed in recent years, particularly in the 30 to 50-year age group, it is essential to pay even more attention and heed the advice of a dermatologist.

But let’s take a step back: what is meant by melanoma? Melanoma is a form of cancer that originates from melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that protects the skin from UV rays. When melanocytes undergo genetic mutations due to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays or other risk factors, they can develop into malignant tumors.

There are four existing types of melanoma:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma: This is the most common form and originates in the superficial part of the skin.
  • Lentigo maligna: This is rarer and typical in older age, developing from a sunspot and skin that has been overexposed to the sun.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma: Less common, it appears as a spot or lesion similar to a bruise and generally develops in peripheral areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, nails, or genitals.
  • Nodular melanoma: This is the most aggressive form and accounts for about 10-15% of all diagnosed melanoma cases. It is also one of the leading causes of mortality related to this pathology. Unlike the first three forms, nodular melanoma spreads deeply from the outset, making the prognosis more challenging.

Fortunately, many strategies can help prevent it and recognize it in its early stages when it is more easily treatable.

How can melanoma be prevented?

Before examining prevention strategies, it is necessary to consider the risk factors associated with the development of melanoma, primarily, as partially mentioned, excessive exposure to UV rays, both from natural sources such as the sun and artificial sources such as tanning lamps.

Other factors include fair skin, the presence of a large number of moles, a family history of melanoma, and a personal history of previous skin lesions, such as severe sunburns. Regardless, prevention is fundamental in the fight against melanoma. Here are some strategies to protect the skin:

  • Limit sun exposure – Direct exposure to the sun during the hottest hours of the day (usually between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM), when UV rays are most intense, is strongly discouraged. Remember, sun exposure can also occur in shaded or cloudy environments.
  • Use sunscreen – Regularly applying sunscreen with a protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is essential to protect the skin from UV rays. Apply it to all areas exposed to the sun at least 15-30 minutes before exposure and reapply every two hours or more frequently in case of intense sweating or water contact.
  • Wear protective clothing – Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and quick-drying clothing are useful for reducing UV exposure.
  • Avoid tanning lamps – Tanning lamps emit harmful UV rays that increase the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

How to recognize melanoma in its early stage?

Early recognition of melanoma signs is crucial for timely treatment and recovery. Here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Asymmetry: Suspicious moles or spots that are not symmetrical are always suspect.
  • Irregular border: The edges of benign moles are sharp, unlike those of melanoma, which are blurred or irregular.
  • Color variation: Changes in color within a skin spot, such as shades of brown, black, red, or blue, can be indicative.
  • Diameter: Moles with a diameter greater than 6 millimeters should be monitored.
  • Evolution: Any change in size, shape, or appearance of a mole or skin spot should be evaluated by a doctor.

The MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” has a dermatology clinic equipped with the most innovative machines for accurate skin diagnostics.

The ability to effectively self-observe does not replace a professional’s visit.

The MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” offers a dermatology clinic for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of skin diseases.

Every diagnosis is preceded by a detailed evaluation to clarify any concerns or doubts of the patient.

Contact us to book a check-up.

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