No one is ever prepared to hear they have any type of cancer, particularly not melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. This type of cancer forms in the cells that give color to your skin, called melanocytes. It frequently develops around pigmented tissue, which means on or around moles, but it can also form on clear expanses of skin and even in the eyes. Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread to other parts of your body. It’s also commonly referred to simply as stage four melanoma.
The spreading for melanoma occurs through the lymphatic system and/or the blood vessels. After the cancer develops, it ultimately spreads to the lymph nodes, the deeper levels of tissue under your skin and to various organs like the brain, liver, lungs and bones. To achieve the best possible treatment outcome with melanoma, it’s important to spot the disease early. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of metastatic melanoma.
What Causes Melanoma?
Generally, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds causes melanoma. UV rays damage the DNA of skin cells and cause them to grow irregularly. However, it’s important to note that you can actually develop melanoma on body parts that don't get as much direct sunlight like the palms of your hands and your retinas in your eyes.
Various risk factors contribute to your chance of developing melanoma. According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 10% of individuals who develop melanoma have a family history of the disease. Fair or light skin and numerous irregular moles are other risk factors that could make you more susceptible to developing this type of skin cancer.
Additionally, there is a higher risk of melanoma in people who have a suppressed immune system, and the risk of metastatic melanoma increases when visible primary melanomas haven’t been removed. This type of cancer becomes more common with age, but it occurs in younger people as well.