Melanoma

Melanoma is a malignant tumor (cancer) of the skin (most often of the skin) containing dark pigment and develops from melanocyte i.e. a melanin producing cell. These cells are found in the outer layer of the skin.

(malignant refers to a form of tumor that enters the cell and may spread to other parts of the body. Melanin refers to black or dark brown pigment of the skin, eyes or hair)

Melanoma occurs mostly in adults. Melanomas spread widely and may spread to lymph nodes, liver, brain and lungs. Melanoma is the leading cause of mortality from skin cancer.

Estimated new cases of melanoma in 2010 in United States was about 68,130 and  8700 deaths were reported.

Characteristics of melanoma (cells):

Cells proliferate rapidly and invade the surrounding tissues rapidly. These cells have different pigmentation and amount of cytoplasm. The nuclei of these cells are relatively large and unusually distorted in shape with noticeable nucleoli. Mitotic figures increase in number.

Possible signs of melanoma:

Following Changes may appear regarding mole/s:

1. Change in shape, size or color

2. having irregular borders or edges

3. having different colours

4. mole/s are assymetrical with itches

5. mole/s may bleed, oozes or become ulcerated.

Causes:

Sunburn in childhood can possibly associated with melanoma.

Latest therapeutic agent:

Recently a monoclonal antibody, “Ipilimumab” (Yervoy; Bristol-Myers Squibb) have been approved by FDA. This drug has been found useful in the treatment of patients with late stage metastatic melanoma. This drug have been found to work by blocking cytotoxic T-lymphocyte antigen or CTLA-4 which is found to play a role in decreasing or blocking the body’s immune system.

References:

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/melanoma accessed May 09, 2011.

http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm1193237.htm Accessed May 09, 2011.

McCarthy, N. (2011). Melanoma: Early exposure is inflammatory. Nature Reviews Cancer 11, 154-155.

Papatriantafyllou, M. (2011). Immunotherapy for metastatic melanoma approved. Nature Reviews Immunology 11, 300.

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