Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from the cells that produce pigment in the skin.


What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops from the cells that produce pigment in the skin, known as melanocytes. Melanoma can occur on any area of the skin, including areas that are not exposed to the sun.


Who's at risk for melanoma?

Individuals who have a history of sunburns, tanning bed use, or a family history of melanoma are at increased risk of developing the disease. Fair-skinned individuals and those with a large number of moles are also at higher risk.


What causes melanoma?

Melanoma is caused by damage to the DNA in melanocytes, typically due to exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds.


How does melanoma start?

Melanoma typically starts as a new or changing mole on the skin. The mole may be asymmetrical, have an irregular border, be uneven in color, or be larger than 6 millimeters in diameter.


What are the symptoms of melanoma?

Symptoms of melanoma may include:

  • A new or changing mole on the skin
  • An asymmetrical mole
  • An irregularly shaped or border mole
  • A mole with varied color
  • A mole larger than 6 millimeters in diameter
  • Itching or bleeding from a mole


How is melanoma diagnosed?

A healthcare provider may diagnose melanoma based on a physical exam and a biopsy of the suspicious mole.


How can melanoma be treated?

Treatment for melanoma may include:

  • Surgery: This is typically the first-line treatment for melanoma and involves removing the cancerous mole and surrounding tissue.
  • Radiation therapy: This may be recommended in some cases to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: This may be recommended for advanced or metastatic melanoma.
  • Immunotherapy: This may be recommended to help the immune system fight the cancer.


What complications may occur with melanoma?

Complications of melanoma may include:

  • Spread to other parts of the body (metastasis)
  • Recurrence of the cancer
  • Skin or tissue damage from surgery or radiation therapy


How can I prevent melanoma?

Preventative measures for melanoma may include:

  • Using sunscreen: Sunscreen should be applied daily with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapplied every two hours.
  • Avoiding tanning beds: Tanning beds are a significant source of UV radiation and increase the risk of melanoma.
  • Wearing protective clothing: Hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses can help protect against UV radiation.
  • Checking for changes in moles: Regular self-examination of the skin can help detect changes in moles early.


Long-term management of melanoma

Long-term management of melanoma may involve:

  • Regular skin examinations: These are typically recommended to check for any new or changing moles.
  • Monitoring for recurrence or metastasis: Individuals with a history of melanoma may be monitored closely to check for recurrence or spread of the cancer.


What is recent research saying about melanoma?

Recent research on melanoma includes:

  • Researchers are exploring new therapies that target specific genetic mutations in melanoma cells.
  • A recent study found that a blood test may be effective at detecting melanoma in its early stages.
  • Researchers are also exploring the use of immunotherapy to treat melanoma, particularly in combination with other therapies.


Where can I go for more information on melanoma?

The American Cancer Society and the Skin Cancer Foundation are both helpful resources for information on melanoma. It is important to work closely with a healthcare provider for guidance and support in managing melanoma.