Lymph Node

A lymph node is also called a lymph gland

doctor feeling woman's lymph node in neck
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A lymph node, also known as a lymph gland, is one of 300 small, bean-shaped organs clustered mostly in the neck, armpit and groin. They are filled with a type of white blood cell (lymphocytes) and act as filters to trap bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances such as cancer cells. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, which also includes the tonsils, thymus, spleen, and bone marrow.

 Swollen lymph nodes (called lymphadenopathy) indicates a high level of activity, as is the case when the body is fighting cancers such as melanoma. Swollen lymph nodes may also be the result of an infection, an insect bite or a drug reaction.

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin — the pigment that gives your skin its color. Melanoma can also form in your eyes and, rarely, in internal organs, such as your intestines.

The exact cause of all melanomas isn't clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help reduce your risk of melanoma.

The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread.

Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

Factors that may increase your risk of melanoma include:

  • Fair skin. Having less pigment in your skin means you are less protected from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair, light-colored eyes, and freckle or sunburn easily, you're more likely to develop melanoma than is someone with a darker complexion. But melanoma can develop in people with darker complexions, including Hispanics and blacks.
  • A history of sunburn. One or more severe, blistering sunburns can increase your risk of melanoma.
  • Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. Exposure to UV radiation, which comes from the sun and from tanning lights and beds, can increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
  • Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation.People living closer to the earth's equator, where the sun's rays are more direct, experience higher amounts of UV radiation than do those living in higher latitudes. In addition, if you live at a high elevation, you're exposed to more UV radiation.
  • Having many moles or unusual moles. Having more than 50 ordinary moles on your body indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Also, having an unusual type of mole increases the risk of melanoma. Known medically as dysplastic nevi, these tend to be larger than normal moles and have irregular borders and a mixture of colors.
  • A family history of melanoma. If a close relative — such as a parent, child or sibling — has had melanoma, you have a greater chance of developing a melanoma, too.
  • Weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems, such as those who've undergone organ transplants, have an increased risk of skin cancer.


Mayo Clinic. Melanoma.

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