Of the three types of skin cancers that you can develop, melanomas are the most dangerous, but also the rarest. If you develop one, it is because the DNA of your skin has been damaged and is unable to repair itself. The unrepaired skin cells mutate and multiply rapidly leading to malignant tumours. The damage is most commonly caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or the overuse of sunbeds. This intense exposure to UV rays has also been linked with a genetic predisposition, which can trigger the development of this form of cancer. But that's not all about melanoma development.
In and of themselves, moles are not dangerous. A mole is just an area of skin with extra pigment. The pigment gathers in a rounded shape, which is sometimes raised, and this is the mole. Some moles have hair growing from them, and this doesn't make them dangerous either! People of all skin colours can have them on their skin and new moles can grow at any time in your life. It is normal that they grow, especially in the first three decades of your life. So, moles are not necessarily dangerous, they can be cute and unique parts of the way you look (think of those coveted beauty spots for example!).
If you see a new spot or new mole on your body that is itchy, feels painful or bleeds, get it checked out immediately by your doctor. The symptoms of melanoma skin cancer vary tremendously so it's important to make sure any blemish or irregular looking mole is investigated and treated. If a mole appears suddenly and it is different to other moles you have, or if it has an unusual shape, color or uneven edge, it is important to act quickly. Some melanomas can look like a black or brown streak beneath a toenail or fingernail, while others take on the appearance of a bruise that won't go away.
The usual melanoma symptoms are a mole changing its shape, color or size. Moles are often brown in color, flat or slightly raised, oval or round. New moles that appear later in life should be checked out by your doctor. If you notice an unusual lump, sore or blemish anywhere on your skin, it is important to keep an eye on it as this could be an indication of melanoma. So what is melanoma?