What is a melanoma?
A melanoma is a tumour of the melanin-producing cells of the skin. Melanin is the pigment that makes some skin darker than others and is especially plentiful in the skin of grey horses.

What does a melanoma look like?
Melanomas are first seen as small, firm and smooth black lumps on the substance of the skin or as swellings in the glands of the head. Frequently many of these lumps develop in one location. These lumps tend to grow slowly over a period of years. Often when the tumour gets large the skin covering it gets damaged and may ulcerate. Generally speaking melanomas are not painful unless they ulcerate.

Where are melanomas commonly found?
While a tumour of melanin producing cells can develop anywhere the common sites are: i) Under the tail ii) The perianal and perineal regions iii) Around the eyes iv) In the glands of the neck v) At the base of the ear.

Are melanomas serious?
The condition of melanoma in humans is a very serious one because of its ability to grow and spread internally (metastasise) rapidly. Consequently the condition in humans is treated very aggressively. Thankfully melanomas in horses act differently. Equine melanomas are only locally invasive and grow very slowly over a period of years. Horses can also develop melanomas that behave in a similar fashion to their human counterparts, ie grow rapidly and spread internally, but this is a less common outcome. Some tumours that have been growing slowly can suddenly become malignant and spread throughout the body, often with fatal consequences.

Can melanomas be treated?
If a melanoma is small and not causing any problems then it is best left alone. It is suggested that any surgical interference may activate the cells , possibly leading to tumour growth. Tumours that interfere with tack or large masses that interfere with covering or defaecation may have to be surgically removed. A medical treatment for melanomas using a drug commonly used in the treatment of stomach ulcers in horses as well as in humans has an effect on some melanomas reducing their overall size. Some anti-cancer treatments such as radiation therapy are effective but are generally cost-prohibitive and not widely available. Buy Windows 7 Ultimate
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