Melanoma is cancer of the cells that give skin its color. It develops when these cells change and reproduce aggressively. The number of cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing faster than any other cancer.
Doctors aren't sure why melanoma rates are soaring. It could be from spending too much time in the sun during outdoor activities. It could also be due to global changes, such as the depletion of the ozone, which absorbs many of the sun's harmful rays.
Your pattern of sun exposure appears to affect your risk of developing melanoma more than the total amount of sun exposure in your lifetime. Short bursts of intense sun seem most dangerous, especially if you get sunburned. Being out in the sun can cause changes (mutations) in skin cells' genes. Researchers have recently found several gene mutations shared by many melanoma tumor cells. It is likely that one or more of these mutations starts the cancer.Learn more about the symptoms of skin cancer ›