Of the three types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most serious. It affects the melanocytes, which produce the pigment melanin that gives skin its color. The cancerous melanocytes do not die when they should (apoptosis) and form a cancerous mass.
Melanoma can show up in a mole or other pigmented tissues such as the eye or intestines. According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, more than 53,600 people find out they have melanoma each year. It is a figure that grows annually. The estimated amount of deaths is 8,420.
Those at risk that have many moles, fair skin, personal history of skin cancer, family history of skin cancer, weakened immune system or have had at least one severe, blistering sunburn.
To help prevent melanoma people should avoid midday sun, wear long sleeves, long pants and a wide-brim hat when outside, protect themselves from UV rays that penetrate clothing, windshields and windows, as well as those that are reflected by sand, water, snow and ice. Skin lotions, cream and gel may help. The higher the SPF the better protection. Sunglasses help too by protecting eyes and skin around the eyes.
U.S. National Cancer Institute. (2008). "What you need to know about melanoma." Retrieved on Sept. 15, 2008 from http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/melanoma