Malignant Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that affects the cells responsible for producing pigment (coloring) in the skin. Little is known about what causes these cells to become cancerous; however, a major risk factor is thought to be excessive exposure to sunlight (especially if one has had severe sunburns as a child).
According to 2002 statistics, malignant melanoma is the most common cancer affecting women ages 25 to 29, and the second most common cancer for women ages 30 to 35. Currently, it is estimated that 1 in 71 Americans will develop melanoma during their lifetime. By the year 2010, the risk is expected to increase to 1 in 50.
In 2007, it is estimated that 59,940 Americans will develop melanoma, and 8,110 (5,220 men and 2,800 women) will die as a result of the disease. The incidence of melanoma is currently increasing faster than any other cancer.
While there is no cure for melanoma, the disease is highly preventable, and can be treated if caught early. Unfortunately, many melanoma cases are not diagnosed until the disease is in the advanced stages.
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