|Malignant melanoma on face (Source: drnaomi.com.au)|
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanoma can also form in your eyes and, rarely, in internal organs, such as your intestines.
The exact cause of all melanomas isn't clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk.
The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Early detection is key in treating melanoma successfully.
Researchers have now found that immune cells may be responsible for drug resistance in melanoma patients, according to research published in Cancer Discovery. The researchers found that chemical signals produced by a type of immune cell, called macrophages, also act as a survival signal for melanoma cells. When the researchers blocked the macrophages’ ability to make this signal, called TNF alpha, melanoma tumours were much smaller and easier to treat. When melanoma patients are given chemotherapy or radiotherapy it causes inflammation, increasing the number of macrophages in the body and raising the levels of TNF alpha. This research suggests that targeting this chemical ‘survival signal’ could lead to new ways to treat the disease.