What is the Focus of Melanoma Research?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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Melanoma research is used to investigate a form of cancer that is found in the skin, bowel, and the eye. It is a rare form of cancer, but is the root cause of 75% of all skin cancer related deaths. Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of cells that are different from all related cells. Melanoma research is a combination of laboratory and clinical work to identify, treat, and reduce the high death rate from this type of cancer.

There are two areas of focus for melanoma research: prevention and identification of risk factors. The only successful treatment available is the removal of the tumor before it reaches 0.1 inches (1 mm) in thickness. Both areas of research require the efforts of clinical researchers, laboratory staff, and oncologists. Government, cancer charities, and pharmaceutical companies fund melanoma research.

Prevention of skin cancer is centered on the reduced exposure to ultraviolet radiation or sun protection. The most effect way to reduce sun exposure is to cover all exposed skin with clothing. Long sleeved shirts, pants, and hats are all effective ways to do this. Some firms now offer clothing with sun protective agents built into them. There is no research to support this as a viable solution, and there are practical concerns that these chemicals are released during the laundry process and pollute the water supply.


Sunscreen and sun block were originally highlighted as effective tools. However, further research has shown that the level of UVA blocking ingredient varies widely among consumer products. The amount of protection indicated on the label may not match the actual product contents. Reduce your exposure to ultraviolet radiation by avoiding the sun between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm.

Risk factors for this type of melanoma fall into two groups: genetics and exposure. People who have fair skin, freckle easily and have red hair have an increased risk factor. The low levels of skin pigmentation have a direct impact on the ability of the skin to protect itself from the sun.

A family history of melanoma increases the risk significantly. Patients with one melanoma tumor are at an increased risk of developing others. This is due to mutations of the CDKN2A and CDK4 genes. Socio-economic factors are also related to melanoma risk. This type of cancer is more commonly found in administrative and professional staff than unskilled workers.

Over exposure to the sun that results in a blistering, peeling skin burn under the age of twenty creates an increased risk of developing melanoma. Research has shown that it is not the sunburn itself, but the level of ultraviolet radiation absorbed by the skin cells that is the cause of the increased risk.



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