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Melanoma

What Is The Outlook For Melanoma?

Friday, June 29, 2012 - 14:56

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Scientists feel both concern and optimism about melanoma. Some think that thinning of the earth's protective ozone layer may cause more cases of skin cancer in the future. The ozone layer is a band of gas high in the atmosphere. It filters some UV radiation from sunlight. Industrial chemicals, now banned in the United States and some other countries, caused the layer to become thinner in the past. Because of this, more UV rays reach the earth's surface, raising skin cancer risks.

What is most important, however, is early detection. Melanoma detected and treated at its earliest stage is virtually 100 percent curable. That's why regular skin self-examination and yearly skin examination by a trained professional is vital.

There is hope for reducing melanoma rates:

  • Public education campaigns have increased awareness about the importance of prevention and early detection.
  • Scientists are learning more about what causes melanoma.
  • New advances in diagnosis, staging, and treating melanoma offer more tools for curing this form of cancer.

Are There New Diagnostic And Treatment Discoveries?

One of the most promising new discoveries in melanoma treatment is gene therapy, replacing an abnormal gene, like the p16 gene, with a normal copy. Clinical trials of certain forms of gene therapy already are underway.

Advances in genetics research are leading to better methods for staging melanoma to help doctors pick the right treatment:

  • New methods such as lymph node mapping and sentinel lymph node biopsy can more accurately indicate when melanoma has spread from its original location.
  • Newly developed "molecular staging" is more sensitive than staging done with a microscope. This technique can spot just one melanoma cell hidden among one million normal cells in the lymph node.
  • These methods can avoid needless removal of lymph nodes and complications such as lymphedema. At the same time, they can better determine when cancer cells have spread to the lymph nodes.

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