What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer. It develops in your melanocytes, or skin cells. These skin cells produce melanin, which gives your skin its color.

According to the Melanoma Foundation, more than 70 percent of melanomas develop in or near an existing mole or dark spot on your skin. It’s important to note changes in the size or appearance of moles and birthmarks. These changes could mean melanoma is developing. In men, melanoma usually develops on the trunk, head, or neck. In women, it normally develops on the arms and legs.

Exact causes of melanoma are not fully understood. However, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from tanning beds increases your risk for developing it. If detected early, melanoma can be surgically removed. If it has spread too much for surgical removal, other standard treatments include:

  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • targeted therapy

Read more: Melanoma facts »

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies aim to alleviate stress and pain, rather than cure the disease. Some patients may look toward alternatives for a cure. However, no studies have proven that alternative therapies can cure melanoma or any type of cancer. Alternative therapies that promise full cancer recovery should be regarded with suspicion.

Instead, you should talk to your doctor about CAM therapies you can combine with traditional therapy. Before you begin a CAM therapy, it’s always wise to examine the pros and cons, since certain treatments may have side effects when combined with standard treatment. The following is a list of the more common CAM therapies.

Nutrition Therapy

Eating healthier and getting exercise is important for treating any kind of cancer. Nutrition therapy provides you with vital nutrients to help you maintain a healthy body weight and fight infection. It aims to control side effects due to medications or disease, while maintaining your strength. Having a healthy diet will help your body fight cancer better. Exercise will keep your body strong and reduce fatigue you may experience from standard treatments.

Studies have shown that eating foods with antioxidants or taking antioxidant supplements can help prevent cancer. Antioxidants help fight cancer by neutralizing free radicals. These are highly reactive chemicals that can harm cells.

Studies have also examined the role of fats and proteins to prevent cancer, as well as plant-based spices, such as curcumin. In addition, some naturally-occurring compounds in plant-based foods may help prevent cancer. These compounds, called flavonoids, are found in apples, broccoli, tomatoes, and grapes, among others.

Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine incorporates natural therapies from various healing traditions. These range from herbal supplements to forms of body manipulation, such as massage and acupuncture.

Herbal Medicine

Plant-based medicines can be taken in the form of teas or capsules. Green tea has long been hailed for its health benefits, from cancer to arthritis. Packed with powerful antioxidants, green tea may prevent skin tumors from forming.

Acupuncture and Acupressure

Acupuncture and acupressure are directed at lessening pain from cancer, rather than as treatment by themselves. Both techniques aim to release energy that is blocked in your body. Acupuncture does this by inserting needles at key points throughout your body. Acupressure involves applying pressure to specific points on your body.

Massage and Physical Therapy

Massage and physical therapy can help you manage chronic pain from melanoma. If melanoma has spread to your lymph nodes, strength training and stretching from physical therapy can be beneficial.


Hydrotherapy involves the use of warm or cool water in the form of a steam bath or ice packs to help alleviate pain. Warm water can relax your muscles, while ice and ice water can reduce inflammation by constricting your blood vessels. Hydrotherapy can also help decrease soreness and increase relaxation.

Mind-Body Therapy

Exercise is highly recommended for melanoma patients to maintain a healthy body weight and to keep energy levels high. Walking or other low-impact activities such as yoga can improve cardiovascular health. For best results, you should perform these activities for about half an hour, three to four days a week. Additionally, yoga’s poses and emphasis on breathing can help reduce stress.


While there are various forms of meditation, many of them share common characteristics. These include limiting distractions, maintaining an open, non-judgmental attitude, and finding a comfortable posture to establish focus. Meditation is used to examine the relationship between the emotional, mental, and behavioral factors of your health. It also helps to relieve stress and anxiety.

There are many simple things you can do to help prevent melanoma:

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds.
  • Wear sunscreen all the time.
  • Wear protective clothing that covers your arms, legs, and face when you go outside.

You should also become familiar with your skin so that you notice any changes on it. This includes new moles or freckles, or changes in current moles, freckles, or birthmarks. Consult your doctor immediately if you notice:

  • any increase in size, especially above 7 millimeters in diameter
  • change in color
  • irregularity of the border of the mole

CAM therapies can’t treat melanoma. However, they can help combat some of the symptoms associated with the disease and its treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. If melanoma is treated early on and properly, the five-year survival rate is generally very high. Survival rates are:

  • 92-97 percent for stage 1
  • 53-81 percent for stage 2
  • 40-78 percent for stage 3
  • 15-20 percent for stage 4

Make sure to talk to your doctor about your treatment plan and how to incorporate CAM therapies into your regimen. Treating the disease and maintaining your overall well-being are very important to your total health.