Home Life Style Mechanism behind Transformation of Cells to Melanoma Identified

Mechanism behind Transformation of Cells to Melanoma Identified

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What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer which originates from cells in the skin called melanocytes. These melanocytes are cells that produce melanin, a pigment that gives the skin its color. Melanoma can also form in the eyes and in some internal organs such as the intestines.

The etiology behind melanoma is not exactly clear but some experts attribute this to too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds. People who are at risk for developing melanoma include those who are women who are under 40 years old who are exposed to ultraviolet light. Thus people should be made aware of the signs and symptoms of this type of skin cancer so that early diagnosis and treatment can be made. Melanoma can be successfully treated when it is detected early in its course.

Melanoma can affect many areas of the body but they can especially affect areas which are most exposed to the sun such as the back, legs, arms and face. However, they can also affect areas of the body which do not receive much sun exposure such as the soles of your feet, palms of your hands and fingernail beds. People who have melanomas in these hidden areas are often those with darker skin.

Melanoma can develop its early signs and symptoms such as a change in a wart or mole and the development of a new pigmented or unusual-looking growth on the skin. However, melanoma does not always begin as a mole; it can first appear as normal-looking skin. Normal moles usually appear with a general uniform color such as brown, tan or black with distinct borders that separate it from the skin. They assume oval or round shapes which are usually smaller than the size of a pencil eraser. Normal people usually develop moles before the age of 40 years old however these moles can change in appearance over time; even some can disappear over time. Melanoma often develops from unusual moles.

Mole changes that may raise the suspicion for melanoma include asymmetrical shape changes, irregular borders, changes in color, increase in diameter and evolution. Suspicious moles may also bring about itching, oozing and bleeding. Melanomas may also develop in hidden areas which have little or no exposure to the sun. These include areas between toes and palsm, soles, scalp or genitals. Examples of hidden melanomas are melanomas under a nail (acral lentiginous melanoma), melanoma in the mouth or digestive tract or genitourinary tract (mucosal melanoma), and eye melanoma (ocular melanoma) which may occur in the uvea or the layer beneath the white of the eye (sclera).

Mechanism behind Melanomas

A recent study by researchers from Oregon State University have identified a specific biochemical process that can cause normal and healthy skin cells to transform into cancerous melanoma cells. The identification of this process can help predict melanoma vulnerability and could also lead to future therapies. These researchers have found out that a protein called retinoid-X-receptor, or RXR aids in the proper operation of the immune response in the skin. The skin's immune response consists of interplay between melanocytes that produce melanin in response to ultraviolet light and other factors. Adequate levels of RXR in the melanocytes can kill the defective skin cells before they become malignant. If this protein becomes low in melanocytes, mutated cells abound and result to melanoma which can then spread from the skin to other parts of the body. The researchers think that RXR levels ought to be tested using diagnostic methods which may be available in the near future. The determination of RXR levels can actually predict the risk for acquiring melanoma among high risk patients. These researchers are also hopeful that RXR may also be a promising target for therapies which are to be developed in the near future.

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