by Felicia McSweeney

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is one of three kinds of skin cancer. The other two kinds are Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). Of the three, Melanoma is the most dangerous. Melanoma spreads quickly, so it is important to check to see if you have any moles that seem different or odd, because if it is left long enough it can spread down to your lymph nodes or other part of the body and can be fatal.

Systems affected by Melanoma

Melanoma takes place in the integumentary system, which is your skin. Although Melanoma starts in the skin, it can spread quickly to other systems in the body. It isn’t limited to a few systems, but a common one is the lymphatic system. Below is an image of the epidermis layers.
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Target population

Melanoma can affect anyone. It is common for people to get Melanoma if they have a family history of it. You can get Melanoma at any age, and it is actually the most common form of cancer in people ages 25-29. In the age group of 15-29, more females are getting Melanoma than males. This is likely because women are starting to use tanning beds more. While the use of tanning beds is not limited to females, it is most common for women to use them. Caucasian people are the most common ethnicity to get melanoma.

How Melanoma affects the body system

Melanoma resembles a mole. A normal mole is about the size of a pencil eraser, and is shaped like a circle or oval. It is raised slightly and is usually smooth and can have some hair growing off of it. A mole affected with Melanoma is misshapen, and can have a reddish or dark brown/black outline. It will be dark brown or black, or dark red.

Melanoma does not really have symptoms, and that is why it can be deadly. It spreads fast and if you don't know that you have it then it can get to another part of the body and from there it will get much worse.

Below is an image showing what Melanoma looks like.

Causes of Melanoma

  • Excessive tanning

  • Tanning beds

  • Sun exposure

  • Not using sunscreen

  • Having a family history of melanoma

  • Having low amounts of melanin in your skin (being pale), having a lot of freckles


  • It is estimated that one in five americans will get melanoma in their life.

  • Melanoma cases have been increasing for the past 30 years.

  • 80 year old men are 3 times more likely to get melanoma than women.

  • If treated early enough before it has spread, the survival rate is 98%

  • In females and males, melanoma is most common in white people. In fact, white people are 24 times more likely to get melanoma than black people.


if you have a strange-looking mole that suddenly changes colour and/or shape, you should immediately go to a doctor. If treated early enough, it is very preventable. when you go to the doctor, she/he will do exams and tests to see if the mole is a type of skin cancer, melanoma, or a skin condition. if melanoma is found, your doctor will do further tests to see if it has spread to more places. Many dermatologists will use a technique called dermatoscopy, or dermascopy. To use this method they take a dermatoscope which is a special magnifying lens, and they may take a photo of the mole. They will then do tests to find out if you have melanoma. They can take a schwab to get a sample from the mole and do tests on that, too.


If you have been diagnosed with Melanoma, it will be surgically removed by a doctor. they will remove the mole and some skin and fat around it, and the size of what they remove depends on how far the melanoma has spread.

How to prevent Melanoma

  • Wear sunscreen

  • Protect your skin from the sun

  • Do not use tanning beds

  • Don’t expose your skin to UV rays for long periods of time (avoid sun exposure)

The best way to prevent melanoma is protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays. Exposure to the sun’s rays is the one of the most common way to get melanoma. A very easy way to prevent getting bad melanoma is to regularly check your skin for moles. If one looks odd (big and misshapen, dark red/brown/black), immediately get it checked. Melanoma spreads fast but if it is treated early enough there is a very high chance that you will live.