Melanoma Awareness, Skin Checks

What Is Melanoma And What Causes It?

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Team MoleMap Creator
Posted 03/10/13

Statistical data shows that melanoma occurs in 1 of every 9 people. It may not be the most common type of skin cancer, however, it is the most dangerous.

If melanoma is not diagnosed and treated early, it may be spread by the lymphatic system to other parts of the skin and to other organs in the body such as the liver and the brain. In such cases, it can be deadly. Being well informed about this type of cancer will help you adopt the most adequate prevention and skin monitoring measures.


This type of skin cancer occurs when the DNA of skin cells in the upper layer of the skin, the epidermis, is damaged and cannot be naturally repaired by the body. The DNA damage triggers mutations. As a result, abnormal skin cells are produced and they multiply rapidly to create a tumour that is malignant. The tumour is called melanoma.

Melanoma develops in the cells producing melatonin. These are found in the base layer of the epidermis. Tumours of this type resemble moles, but they are not moles. They do not usually develop from existing moles, but this is not impossible.

The tumours are clearly visible on the skin. They are usually black or dark brown. However, they can have other colours as well. These include flesh colour, pink, white, red, purple and blue.


Melanoma is caused by damage of the DNA of cells producing melatonin. Researchers have identified a number of causes of the DNA damage itself. It is still not clear whether these work separately or together to lead to the formation of malignant tumours of the skin.

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is its main cause. Having sunburns increases your risk irrespective of when you have them. For instance, if you had frequent and serious sunburns as a child, you are at greater risk of this type of skin cancer.

The same is true if you have occasional exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation. This includes not only sun exposure, but also the use of tanning beds and lamps.

Genetics may also be responsible for this type of skin cancer. If you have a family member who has or has had this condition, you are at greater risk. The risk is the highest in people who have first-degree relatives with this disease.

Having certain characteristics puts you at greater risk of melanoma as well. People with fair skin, green or blue eyes and/or blond or red hair are more likely to develop this condition.