Melanoma is a type of skin cancer characterized by the proliferation of cells responsible for skin pigmentation (melanocytes). This tumor type is more common in fair-skinned individuals exposed to the sun. In addition, other possible likely risk factors include:

  • Family history;
  • Presence of certain pre-malignant skin lesions;
  • Immune system changes.

In general, the lesion caused by melanoma has the following characteristics:

  • Asymmetry and irregular edges;
  • Multiple colorations;
  • Diameter greater than 5 mm;
  • Elevation.

The diagnosis of melanoma involves clinical examination by a dermatologist, and a biopsy of the lesion may be performed. The degree of involvement of skin structures (Clark’s level) and the depth of the lesion in millimeters (Breslow’s depth) are important factors to be examined after biopsy or lesion removal.

Melanoma staging includes radiological examinations and LDH blood measurements. In some cases, there may be involvement of lymph nodes and the existence of metastases.
Treatment of melanoma usually involves surgical removal of the tumor. In cases of suspected involvement of lymph nodes, a procedure called lymphoscintigraphy can be performed, which consists of the injection of a radioactive substance or dye close to the lesion and subsequent analysis of the lymph nodes that have captured this substance.

Adjuvant treatment of melanoma is indicated for high-risk tumors, being done through the administration of interferon. In cases of presence of metastases, treatment may involve immunotherapy, chemotherapy and, more recently, molecular targeting drugs.

Among the chemotherapeutic agents most frequently used in the treatment of metastatic melanoma are dacarbazine, temozolomide and paclitaxel. Among molecular targeting drugs, the use of sorafenib in combination with chemotherapy has been studied.

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This content is part of the Oncoclínicas glossary with all terms related to Oncology and its treatments.
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