Melanoma Awareness month is here and making sure that everyone understands the differences between carcinoma and melanoma is an important part of raising awareness for these life-threatening conditions. We often see some confusion on the topic because the two problems do have some things in common. On the other hand, they call for different treatment plans and have some important medical differences, so it is still vital to understand the distinction between carcinoma and melanoma.

Common Features

Both melanoma and carcinoma refer to forms of skin cancer. They both occur when cells start to grow in an unusual way to cause a tumor. They differ in the details of the case, such as the type of cells that they come from, but the core mechanisms are the same for both. Doctors are capable of treating both types of cancer, but they do have to use different methods for each. Understanding those relatively subtle differences is vital to understanding both of the cancers.

Basic Differences

Melanomas and carcinomas come from different cells in the skin. A carcinoma can come from two different types of cell. Basal cells are the most common culprit. They are located in the lower level of the epidermis. Their job is to reproduce to create new cells for the skin. Squamous cells, which form the outer layer, are the other option.

Neither of those cells can produce a melanoma. Those come from melanocytes, which are cells that exist to produce melanin. That compound both protects the skin from sunlight and determines its color.

The other big difference between the two types of cancer is the survival rate. Melanomas are generally much more dangerous than carcinomas. Early detection helps with treatment in both cases and can be a key to dealing with the problem.

Telling Them Apart

A visual inspection can sometimes be enough to tell the difference between carcinoma and melanoma. Both cancers generally manifest as small bumps or growths on the skin.

Carcinomas are generally reddish or pink. Some of them are close to the skin’s original color and can be hard to spot. The skin’s texture can also change, with some of them resembling scars or simply irritated skin. A few even resemble sores.

Melanomas tend towards shades of blue, purple, or brighter reds. It is common for them to have multiple colors in a single growth, and that growth will tend towards an asymmetric shape. They tend to grow and change over time.

It can be tricky for the average person to identify a tumor. We encourage people to talk to a professional if they have any concerns about their skin. Early detection is vital for treatment, so it is best to get help early.

Different Treatments

Both carcinomas and melanomas respond fairly well to treatment, but they usually require different therapies.

Surgery is a common treatment option for carcinomas, especially those that have been caught early. Radiation therapy is a common choice for larger cancers and for growths in areas that are difficult to treat with surgery. There are other options, such as chemotherapy, but it is rare to use them.

Melanoma can respond well to surgery when people catch it early, but later stages often require other treatments. That can include radiation, specialized medications, or even immunotherapy. The exact treatment always depends on the details of the case.

A Shared Solution

Carcinomas and melanomas are different things, but they both require medical attention. It is always a good idea for people to examine themselves regularly and keep an eye out for any unusual growths or discoloration on their skin. Those who find anything out of the ordinary should get in touch with a doctor to determine if it is a problem or not.