Updated: Aug 24
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. These cells normally produce dark pigments that protect the body from harmful ultraviolet rays. However, if these cells become damaged or mutated, they may begin producing abnormal amounts of melanin, which can cause them to turn black or brown. While skin cancer in general tends to affect people with fair skin at higher rates people with darker skin types are not immune. UV radiation (typically from sun exposure or tanning beds) tends to damage DNA and may cause cells to become cancerous and malignant. Managing UV exposure is key in preventing melanoma and other skin cancers, with the exception of the very small subset that are considered genetic/hereditary.
There are several treatment options for melanoma depending on the tumor stage, namely excision/surgical removal, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapies. Surgery is often recommended for earlier stage melanomas, while more advanced cases may require systemic therapies such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Radiation therapy is a tool to treat tumors that haven't spread beyond the original site. Chemotherapy drugs work by destroying rapidly dividing cells, a trait that cancerous cells tend to possess. Immunotherapy uses the host immune system to fight cancer. Targeted therapies use medications that target specific molecules involved in tumor growth.
Novel treatments for melanoma are underway, including gene therapy, nanoparticles, and vaccines. Gene therapy involves inserting genes into the DNA of cancer cells using viruses or synthetic particles. Nanoparticles are tiny particles that can carry medication directly to cancer cells. Vaccines stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Gene therapy involves inserting genes into the DNA of cancer cells using viruses or synthetic particles. Nanoparticles are tiny particles that can carry medication directly to cancer cells.