Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer in existence, and a diagnosis can be scary. If you’re wondering how young is too young to be concerned about melanoma, read on.
Melanoma is a relatively uncommon form of skin cancer, but it’s by far the most lethal. Melanoma begins at the melanocytes in your skin. These cells give skin its pigmentation. Cancer occurs when cells mutate and replicate rapidly, forming clusters of cells that can spread and harm other organs. Skin cancer can occur in different parts of the skin, varying from deeper layers to closer to the surface. Melanoma occurs relatively deep within the layers of the skin, which makes early detection sometimes difficult.
Melanoma is deadly because it’s not always easy to spot and because it spreads fast. When cancer cells spread, it’s called metastasization. Metastasizing cancer cells can spread inward and impact internal organs, which can result in death. About 7,000 people per year die of melanoma. It can affect anyone, but it most commonly impacts people with fair complexions. Men are more likely to develop melanoma than women, but there are risk factors for both genders. People who have had 5 or more severe sunburns in their early teens to their twenties are 80% more likely to develop melanoma than people who haven’t. The indoor tanning craze of the 2000s and 2010s has contributed to a growing number of melanoma cases in women.
The leading cause of melanoma is sun damage. Sun damage is a key contributor to all forms of skin cancer because sunlight contains ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation comes in a few different varieties: UVA, UVB, and UVC light. UVB light is the most dangerous to our skin, as UVA is weaker and UVC is deflected by the earth’s atmosphere. This radiation is absorbed by our skin cells, causing them irreversible damage. When skin cells are damaged, they produce more melanin. These damaged skin cells either die off or are repaired, and during the process of creation or repair, mutations can occur. When this happens, skin cancer can develop.
Melanoma most often resembles a common mole. While moles themselves are not dangerous, any new or changing moles should be examined by a dermatologist. Your dermatologist can assess whether it’s cancerous or benign. Early detection is key with melanoma, so it’s important to visit your dermatologist for recommended routine skin checks.
So, onto the big question: can you be too young for melanoma? Unfortunately, the answer is no. While newborns aren’t really at risk for melanoma, it can occur in young adults and even children. While sun damage is the primary cause of melanoma, it isn’t the only cause.
Melanoma has environmental and genetic factors that can cause a person to develop the condition or be more prone to it. Thankfully, melanoma in children is exceptionally rare. If you’ve experienced sun damage at all in the past, your risk is higher for each time you’ve been burnt and the severity of your sunburns. Your risk of developing melanoma also does increase with age, but it’s more common in younger women who tan or tanned in their teens or twenties. The sad truth is that melanoma can impact practically anyone at any age, but knowing the warning signs and how to prevent it can keep you safe from its lethal consequences. Always wear sunscreen and avoid direct sunlight as much as possible all year round. Do not tan with artificial or natural light. Spray tans are a healthy alternative if you want the look. Pay close attention to your skin for any changes. You don’t need to live in fear, but always be aware of the possibility.
Melanoma can happen to anybody, but knowing how to mitigate risk factors from sun damage and what to look for can keep you safe and healthy. If you have concerns about a mole or lesion, or want to schedule routine skin checks, call the doctors at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.
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