Medicine Essay Example: Description of Melanoma

2021-07-08 22:51:18
4 pages
967 words
Boston College
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Public health systems continue to contend with various challenges as new strains of diseases emerge. Both acute and chronic illnesses have forced medical systems to adopt new approaches such as evidence based practice and proactive diagnosis and control to manage them from progressing to harmful levels. Melanoma which is also known as malignant melanoma or skin cancer is one of the health problems especially in regions that experience high intensity of the ultra violet radiations (Leiter & Garbe, 2008). This type of cancer begins in cells located in the epidermis (upper skin) called melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that are responsible for manufacturing melanin which gives the skin its dark color (Poole, Flaherty, Guerry, & Wolchok, 2015). Melanin protects the inner skin from harmful radiations. Staying in the sun for a long time triggers the melanocytes to make more melanin thus darkening the skin.

Despite the fact that people with fair skin complexion are at high risk of melanoma, it can occur in individuals of any skin color. In its initial stages, melanoma presents itself as a dark spot on the skin which looks like a mole but with an irregular border and spreads on the skin. There are two types of melanoma based on their movement (Garbe & Leiter, 2009). One types are metastatic melanoma that spreads beyond the skin to affect some other organs of the body while localized melanoma does not affect other organs. Medical research indicates that melanoma is one of the most dangerous strains of cancer that affect populations in different parts of the world. Melanoma is the most critical type of skin cancer that can progress quickly and can be life-threatening (Garbe & Leiter, 2009). The condition is characterized by the excessive growth of the melanocytes. Early detection of melanoma eases successful treatment, but if it spreads to the rest of the body, then it may lead to poor prognosis.

People who are exposed to tanning beds or the sun have increased the risk of developing melanoma (Garbe & Leiter, 2009). It is important that one does a self-assessment of the skin to detect the presence of a skin mass or mole that changes in color or size. The mole may also bleed and become tender. Timely diagnosis and treatment are one of the practical approaches for melanoma. Just like any cancer, melanoma starts within the melanocytes and grow excessively thus undermining normal cellular functions and leading to death.

Prevalence of melanoma in Australia and New Zealand

Australia is one of the countries that experience the highest incidences of melanoma globally. In fact, melanoma is commonly referred to as the 'Australia's national cancer.' After bowel and prostate cancer, melanoma is the third most common type of tumor affecting the Australian men (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). In 2017 alone, melanoma accounts for 12% of new cases of diagnosed cancers in men. It is also the third most prevalent tumor in Australian women after breast and bowel cancer respectively. Medical projections indicate that approximately 14,000 Australians are likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in 2017, despite the fact that melanoma counts for only 2% of the skin cancers, it is responsible for 75% of skin cancer-related deaths in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017). Despite these alarming statistics, it is notable that early diagnosis and simple treatment can lead to the successful cure of melanoma. Demographics indicate that melanoma is the most common cancer among Australians within the age bracket of 1539 years. This statistics translates to 20% of all cancer cases within this age limit.

In New Zealand, about 4000 people are diagnosed with melanoma annually thus making it the country with the highest rate of the condition Melanoma New Zealand: Overview, 2017). Melanoma in New Zealand accounts for about 80% of all cancer deaths among individuals above the age of 50 years being at the highest risk of death from the diseases (Melanoma New Zealand: Overview, 2017). Men in New Zealand are at the greater risk of melanoma attack than women, a fact which opens ground for further research on factors leading to this difference.

Prevention or Treatment Methods for Melanoma

The exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) is known to be the primary cause of melanoma (Leiter & Garbe, 2008). Therefore, one of the main ways of preventing melanoma attack is avoiding the direct exposure to the UV. This fact necessities individual activities such as using sunscreens, staying under shades and not taking children out during sunny days. Furthermore, early detection of melanoma is one of the appropriate ways of mitigating it (Wang, 2011). Therefore, routine assessment of the skin for the presence of any pigmented lesion serves as a sensitive warning. A confirmatory test should follow the identification of these signs through cancer screening.

Apart from the prevention measures for melanoma, there are a series of treatments that can be administered. Some of these therapeutic ways for melanoma include surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy (Wang, 2011). Surgery involves the cutting out of the melanoma whereas chemotherapy uses medicines to control metastatic melanoma from affecting other parts of the body. Successful treatment of melanoma only occurs after it is diagnosed and staged. The underlying need for melanoma staging is that fact that each phase of the disease requires specific therapy.



Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2017). Cancer in Australia 2017. Cancer series no. 101. Cat. No. CAN 100. Canberra: AIHW.

Garbe, C., & Leiter, U. (2009). Melanoma epidemiology and trends. Clinics in dermatology, 27(1), 3-9.

Leiter, U., & Garbe, C. (2008). Epidemiology of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancerthe role of sunlight. In Sunlight, vitamin D and skin cancer (pp. 89-103). Springer New York.

Melanoma New Zealand: Overview. (2017). Retrieved 25 August 2017, from

Poole, C. M., Flaherty, K., Guerry, D. P., & Wolchok, J. D. (2015). Melanoma: Not just skin cancer.

Wang, S. Q. (2011). Beating melanoma: A five-step survival guide. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.


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