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HEALTH - Essay Example

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Skin cancer, more formally known as melanoma, is one of the most common types of cancer in the college-age group, as well as the most recurrent forms of cancer in the United States. I have chosen to write this paper on melanoma as the majority of individuals who suffer from this…
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Skin cancer: Melanoma Skin cancer, more formally known as melanoma, is one of the most common types of cancer in the college-age group, as well as the most recurrent forms of cancer in the United States. I have chosen to write this paper on melanoma as the majority of individuals who suffer from this disease are in my own age group. Melanoma is the most deadliest form of skin cancer, but also the easiest to avoid. While doctors and medical specialists are unsure of the concrete causes of melanoma, it is believed that the leading cause is lengthy exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and tanning beds. By avoiding excessive exposure to UV radiation, such as unnecessary time beneath a tanning lamp or under the sun, many individuals can decrease their risk of developing this deadly form of cancer.
Melanoma is a common form of cancer primarily due to the fact that many individuals do not realize that they are being exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation. Those who are at risk for developing melanoma believe that they are not getting too much sun, or that they are wearing the appropriate amount of clothing of sunblock to protect themselves. Essentially, it is a lack of information about melanoma that causes individuals to become reckless and exposed to the causes of this form of cancer. Furthermore, since melanoma often makes itself known through the discoloration of skin or the presence of moles, signs that people tend to ignore or else assume are typical to sun exposure, the warning signs go ignored until it is too late and the cancer has spread.
In the United States alone, 76,250 individuals have been or will be diagnosed with melanoma during 2012; 44,250 will be men and 32,000 women (ACS, 2012). Of these numbers, it is estimated that over nine thousand are expected to die from their disease (ACS, 2012). These rates continue to rise each year, having been on a steady incline for the past thirty years. The state that has the highest rate of skin cancer is Oregon, though it is followed rather closely by Washington, Idaho, Utah, New Hampshire, and Vermont, with each state having an average of 2.3 million cases of skin cancer each year (CDC, 2012).
As previously mentioned, there is no definite cause of melanoma, though numerous risk factors have been determined. Individuals with fairer skin, and therefore less pigment to protect them from ultraviolet damage, are more likely to develop melanoma than someone with a darker complexion. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet light or a history of severe sunburn increases an individual’s risk of skin cancer; with increased overexposure to UV radiation and each acute sunburn, an individual’s skin weakens, becoming more vulnerable to future damage. Also, while there is no definite link, it is believed that genetics plays a role in an individual’s development of melanoma. If an immediate family member had the disease, other family members have a greater risk of developing it themselves.
One of the most typical warning signs of melanoma is a mole, whether an existing one becomes altered in appearance or new ones develop. Normal moles have certain specifications, such as size and color, and when the characteristics become unusual, an indication of melanoma, the individual is tested for skin cancer. Additional changes to moles that are regarded as suspicious include scaliness, itching, and bleeding. Another warning sign of melanoma is discoloration of the skin, especially around a mole.
Treatment for melanoma varies depending on the stage when an individual’s disease is discovered. Early-stage individuals are usually able to have the cancerous cells removed through surgery, with many not requiring further treatment. For those who are further along in their disease, such as those whose cancer has spread beyond the skin, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most typical forms of treatment. In the case that melanoma has spread too far and cannot be treated through surgery or regular therapy, targeted therapies exist that can help individuals who have certain genetic mutations. These therapies “use medications designed to target specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells (Poole & Guerry, 2005).” Though there is no single treatment for melanoma, the five-year survival rates for patients whose melanoma is detected early is 98%, but falls to 62% once the disease has reached the lymph nodes and 15% when it spreads to other organs (Robins & Perez, 2010).
ACS. (2012, September 20). What are the key statistics about melanoma skin cancer?. American Cancer Society. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from
CDC. (2012, May 2). Skin cancer rates by state. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from
Poole, C. M., & Guerry, D. (2005). Melanoma: Prevention, detection, and treatment (2nd ed.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Robins, P., & Perez, M. (2010). Understanding melanoma (4th ed.). New York, NY: Skin Cancer Foundation. Read More
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