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  Increased Risk of Melanoma  
 
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Signs, symptoms and indicators | Conditions that suggest it | Contributing risk factors | It can lead to... | Recommendations

 

Everyone should be familiar with the 'ABCD's of skin cancer recognition:

ASYMMETRY: an irregular or uneven shape
BORDER IRREGULARITY: an uneven, jagged, or spiky outline
COLOR CHANGE OR VARIEGATION: a sudden darkening, or multicolored appearance
DIAMETER GREATER THAN 6MM.
Now, researchers are proposing that an E should be added to the equation -- for "EVOLVING." After looking at dozens of past studies that included 30 subjects or more, authors of a new report found that 88 percent of patients noted an evolution of their melanoma before it was removed. Enlargement was reported most often, but changes in shape, symptoms (itching, tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), and shades of color were also noted. That's why they've chosen the word EVOLVING, rather than enlargement as the basis for the 'E.'

In short, if a skin growth looks ugly and appears to be enlarging, it should be checked by an experienced medical professional.

The risk of melanoma is increased with occasional, intense exposure, such as blistering sunburns, especially in childhood, rather than just long-term sun exposure. Common locations for melanoma include the back and scalp in men and legs in women, areas not generally exposed to the sun long-term, and it is more common in younger individuals. Melanoma may occur by itself, or arise from a pre-melanoma mole or skin growth. Unlike other cancers, melanoma may remain inactive for years, and may even regress temporarily, and then suddenly metastasize to lymph nodes or vital organs.

Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the melanin or pigment that colors our skin, hair, and eyes. Most often, it shows up first in new or pre-existing moles, which are a concentration of melanocytes. Although sometimes, melanomas stop producing pigment altogether and become pink, purple, or skin-colored.

There are four types of melanoma: superficial spreading, lentigo maligna, acral lentiginous, and nodular. Each type has its own unique markers. For example, acral lentiginous is most common in Asians and African-Americans and is usually found under the nails or on the soles of the feet or the palm of the hand.
 

 
 

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Increased Risk of Melanoma:
 
 
Symptoms - Hair  Light hair

Symptoms - Skin - Conditions

  Bleeding/enlarging/tender lumps

Symptoms - Skin - General

  Lighter/paler skin color

Symptoms - Urinary

  Dark urine color
 Melanin and melanogen, found in the urine of patients with melanoma, will darken standing urine from the air-exposed surface downward.
 
 

Conditions that suggest Increased Risk of Melanoma:
 
 
Uro-Genital  Endometriosis
 Endometriosis has been linked to the environmental contaminant dioxin and a lack of physical activity, both of which are associated with an increased risk of melanoma.
 
 

Risk factors for Increased Risk of Melanoma:
 
 
Environment / Toxicity  Sun Damage/Overexposure

Family History

  Melanoma in family members
 Individuals with a parent or sibling with melanoma have a 10 times greater chance of developing melanoma themselves.

Symptoms - Head - Eyes/Ocular

  Light eye color

Symptoms - Skin - Conditions

  (Moderate/many) dark moles or few moles
 Conventionally, having a lot of moles has been considered a risk factor for skin cancer, but this study points to a positive effect of moles on telomeres.

Telomeres are bundles of DNA found in all cells that protect chromosome ends, similar to the plastic tips on shoelaces that keep them from unraveling. Since telomeres get shorter as we age, they are also good indicators of how the heart, muscle, bones and arteries are aging.

Telomere length was found to be longer among people with a lot of moles (more than 100) than those with only a few (less than 25). In all, the extra telomere length amounted to the equivalent of six to seven years of aging! [Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention July 1, 2007, 16, pp.1499-1502]
 
 

Increased Risk of Melanoma can lead to:
 
 
Risks  Cancer / Risk - General Measures
 
 

Recommendations for Increased Risk of Melanoma:
 
 
Action  See a Doctor at Earliest Opportunity

Animal-based

  Fish Oil / Krill
 VALHALLA, NEW YORK. The incidence of cutaneous malignant melanoma is growing rapidly among persons with fair skin. It is estimated that one in 75 Americans will develop melanoma within their lifetime. Melanoma has a pronounced tendency to spread to other organs (metastasis) and the 5-year survival rate for metastatic melanoma is less than 10%. There is growing evidence that diet can influence the risk of developing melanoma. It is now believed that a high intake of omega-6 fatty acids stimulates the growth of melanoma and other cancers whereas omega-3 fatty acids suppress the growth of cancer cells.

Researchers at the New York Medical College and the American Health Foundation have just released the results of a laboratory experiment which clearly shows that docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a main component of fish oil, is highly effective in inhibiting the growth of human melanoma cells. The researchers treated 12 different human metastatic melanoma cell cultures (in vitro) with DHA and found that more than 50% of them stopped growing. They urge further testing of their findings in full-scale clinical trials involving patients with melanoma. They conclude that “if DHA is capable of suppressing cell and tumor growth and metastatic potential in in vivo models of melanoma, a clinical trial of DHA would be warranted as an adjuvant to current surgical and chemotherapeutic interventions”. [Cancer Research, Vol. 60, August 1, 2000, pp. 4139- 45]

"Epidemiological, experimental, and mechanistic data implicate omega-6 fat as stimulators and long-chain omega-3 fats as inhibitors of development and progression of a range of human cancers, including melanoma." [ Cancer Res 2000 Aug 1;60(15):pp.4139-45]

Botanical

  Turmeric Extract, Curcumin
 According to researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, curcumin blocks a key biological pathway needed for development of melanoma and other cancers. The spice stops laboratory strains of melanoma from proliferating and pushes the cancer cells to commit suicide by shutting down nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a powerful protein known to induce an abnormal inflammatory response that leads to an assortment of disorders such as arthritis and cancer. [Cancer July 11, 2005]

Drug

  Conventional Drugs / Information
 Doctors in Surrey, England for the previous 11 years had been maintaining melanoma patients with Clark's level IV and III disease on dipyridamole, 300mg a day. Thirty of these patients were maintained on this dose of dipyridamole. Of them, 26 had level IV disease and 4 had level III disease. At five years, the survival of the level IV patients was 74%. The five-year survival for the total of the 30 of level IV and III disease was 77%. None of the level III patients died. Reference was given that the expected five-year survival for level IV melanoma is 32%. In the case of melanoma, 100% of deaths are caused by distant metastases.[Lancet, March 23, 1985; p.693]

Environmental

  Sun Exposure Reduction / Sunscreen
 Researchers found that even sunscreens with the highest protection factor of 35, applied in the correct amounts, were not effective at filtering out those harmful UVA rays which cause melanoma. Therefore, sunbathing time should be reduced and clothing to block UVA rays should be worn when the sun is at its strongest. [The Guardian, Sept 28, 2003]

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs

  Test AMAS (AntiMalignin Antibody Screen)

Mineral

  Selenium
 Serum selenium levels were inversely related to the degree of disease severity in 200 cases of melanoma studied. As selenium has established cancer prevention effects, its use to reduce the risk of melanoma is advisable.

Nutrient

  DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
 Please see the link between Increased Risk of Melanoma and Fish Oil.

  TMG (Tri-methyl-glycine) / SAMe

Vitamins

  Vitamin D
 Dr. Dianne Godar of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has conducted a study indicating that UVA light -- not the UVB light that causes suntans and allows your body to produce vitamin D -- may be responsible for the melanoma epidemic.

What’s more, the UVA light, unlike UVB, can pass through window glass, meaning you can still be exposed to it while you are indoors or in your car.

UVB, on the other hand, appears to be protective against melanoma -- or rather, the vitamin D your body produces in response to UVB radiation is protective. Dr. Godar points out that the melanoma epidemic began long before sunbeds, and that the dramatic melanoma increase occurs primarily in indoor workers, not outdoor workers.

Low vitamin D levels actually predict melanoma, and all-year tans protect against melanoma. Melanoma patients who expose themselves to the sun live longer than those who don't. [Medical Hypotheses April 2009; 72 (4): pp.434-443]
 
 


KEY
Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
May do some good
Likely to help
Highly recommended







GLOSSARY

Cancer:  Refers to the various types of malignant neoplasms that contain cells growing out of control and invading adjacent tissues, which may metastasize to distant tissues.

DNA:  Deoxyribonucleic acid, the large molecule that is the main carrier of genetic information in cells. DNA is found mainly in the chromosomes of cells.

Endometriosis:  A condition whereby endometrial tissue builds up in parts of the uterus where it does not belong or areas outside of the uterus, forming 'ectopic implants'. Unlike the normal tissue lining the uterus, ectopic tissue has no place to shed in response to a decline in estrogen and progesterone. This results in debris and blood accumulating at the site of the implant leading to inflammation, scarring and adhesions that ultimately cause symptoms and complications. Symptoms typically occur in a cyclic fashion with menstrual periods, the most common being pelvic pain and cramping before and during periods; pain during intercourse; inability to conceive; fatigue; painful urination during periods; gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.

Epidemiology:  The study of the causes and distribution of disease in human populations.

Lymph Nodes:  Small, bean-shaped nodes at various points throughout the body that function to filter the lymph fluid and attempt to destroy the microorganisms and abnormal cells which collect there. The most common locations are the neck (both sides and front), armpit and groin, but also under the jaw and behind the ears. Swollen or painful lymph nodes generally result from localized or systemic infection, abscess formation, or malignancy. Other causes of enlarged lymph nodes are extremely rare. Physical examination for lymph nodes includes pressing on them to check for size, texture, warmth, tenderness and mobility. Most lymph nodes can not be felt until they become swollen, and then will only be tender when pressed or massaged. A lymph node that is painful even without touching indicates greater swelling. Lymph nodes can usually be distinguished from other growths because they generally feel small, smooth, round or oval-shaped and somewhat mobile when attempts are made to push them sideways. Because less fat covers the lymph nodes in children, they are easier to feel, even when they are not busy filtering germs or making antibodies. Children’s nodes enlarge faster, get bigger in response to an infection and stay swollen longer than an adult's.

Malignant:  Dangerous. mainly used to describe a cancerous growth -- when used this way, it means the growth is cancerous and predisposed to spreading.

Melanin:  A dark pigment produced in the skin. Dark-skinned individuals produce more melanin, and melanin production increases in response to sunlight, causing the skin to become darker.

Melanoma:  A life-threatening type of skin cancer that occurs in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin, the pigment found in skin, hair, and the iris of the eyes.

Millimeter:  (mm): A metric unit of length equaling one thousandth of a meter, or one tenth of a centimeter. There are 25.4 millimeters in one inch.