Every year 160,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed worldwide, according to data from the Association Against Cancer. In Spain it is estimated that it affects 3,600 people each year. It is striking how, unlike other types of cancer, the incidence of melanoma has increased in recent decades.
Types of melanoma
In contrast to a few years ago, the most useful classification today for deciding on treatment is based on the different molecular alterations of melanoma (analysis of BRAF, NRAS, ckit, GNAQ, GNA11 genes, etc).
Classically and from a morphological point of view, melanomas were classified as:
Superficial spreading melanoma. Although it can originate in any part of the body, it is common on the back and lower limbs in women and on the trunk in men. Regarding appearance it is flat or irregular in shape and color and with variable shades of black and brown.
- Lentigo maligna melanoma. It usually appears in older people and frequently in those whose skin is very damaged by the sun’s rays. They are found on the face, neck and arms and cover large areas of skin, without relief and have a brownish hue with brown areas.
- Acro lentiginous melanoma (ALM). This is the rarest of the four types and occurs on the palms of the hands and feet or even under the nails.
- Nodular melanoma. This is the most aggressive of the four. It usually starts with a raised area of dark blue-black or bluish-red color, although it can be colorless. It is the second most common and usually arises on the trunk, head or neck.
Melanoma detection and prevention
Normally an ocular inspection is not enough for the specialist in Medical Oncology to diagnose melanoma. Frequently, benign skin lesions are confused with this type of skin cancer and conversely, malignant lesions can have a benign appearance.
There are some signs that can lead to the suspicion of melanoma skin cancer, such as changes in color, growth, itching or bleeding of a mole. Early diagnosis, in less advanced stages of the disease, is curative, and nowadays it is possible to perform it by means of specific dermatological technology. The usual recommendation of all experts to prevent melanoma is to avoid exposure to the sun.