Melanoma

Also known as: skin cancer.

What is melanoma?

Melanocytes are the cells in the body’s skin that produce melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color. When cancer develops in the melanocytes, it is known as melanoma. Of the many forms of skin cancer, melanoma is generally regarded as the most dangerous. Melanoma can appear in both adults and children.

What causes melanoma?

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun’s harmful rays or tanning beds seems to increase the risk of melanoma, although the exact cause is not entirely clear. Protecting the skin through use of sunscreens and protective clothing may reduce the incidence of melanoma.

What are the symptoms of melanoma? 

Melanoma can be especially dangerous, as it can occur without presenting any symptoms. Other times, an existing mole might change shape, or an unusually shaped or colored growth can develop on the skin. Early detection is very important to increase the success of treatment. An annual visit with a dermatologist is recommended to help identify melanoma at the earliest opportunity. Schedule with your dermatologist if you spot irregular moles. Moles are usually: symmetrical and round, have even borders, are uniform in color and smaller than 6 millimeters. Visit the dermatologist if: a mole changes color or becomes asymmetrical, develops an uneven border, or is larger than the tip of a pencil eraser. 

What are melanoma care options?

Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other forms of cancer therapy are all potential treatments for melanoma. Wearing sunscreen or protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays with sunscreen and other methods may help prevent melanoma from developing.


Reviewed by: Ana Margarita Duarte, MD

This page was last updated on: 5/24/2018 11:40:59 AM


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