Melanoma is a form of skin cancer most common in sun exposed areas of fair skinned people- however, it can also occur in dark skinned people and in non sun exposed areas like the soles of the feet.
Melanoma strikes about 70,000 people in the US annually. Melanoma kills about 8,000 people annually in the USA- which accounts for about 75% of all melanoma deaths. Melanoma usually forms multi-colored (red, black, brown, yellow) crusty lesions on the skin, although some forms of melanoma are colorless (amelanotic melanoma). Melanoma is especially dangerous since it can spread to almost any part of the body, including organs that rarely get cancer such as the heart and the eyes. Anybody who has unexplained crusty skin lesions should visit a physician to rule out cancer.
The most common cause of melanoma is too much sun exposure. Using sunblocks partially reduces risk of getting melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. Other studies have reported that low dietary intake of vitamin D can also increase risk of developing melanoma.
Exposure to pesticides and solvents such as benzene may also increase risk of developing melanoma. A recent study of agricultural pesticide applicators in Iowa and North Carolina reported that exposure to many pesticides such as maneb/mancizeb, parathion, carbaryl and arsenic containing pesticides are associated with significantly higher rates of melanoma. Results were adjusted for sun exposure.
This study by Dennis et al. was published in the June 2010 Environmental Health Perspectives.