What is Melanoma?

Melanoma, also known as Malignant Melanoma and Cutaneous Melanoma, is the most serious form of skin cancer and the most common among adolescents and young adults ages 15-29.  Five sunburns during childhood double a person’s chances of developing Melanoma later in life.  Though it only accounts for about 1% of all skin cancers, it is the most fatal of all skin cancers.  90% of Melanoma cases can be directly attributed to UV radiation exposure of the sun.

Melanoma tumors are usually brown or black but can appear pink, tan, or even white.  Melanoma can be found anywhere in the skin but the most likely place to start in men is in the chest and back.  In women, it is most likely to start on the legs.  Other common areas you can find Melanoma is on the neck, face, scalp, eyes, mouth, between toes, under feet, and genital areas.

Early detection is the key for a positive outcome. If treated early, it is almost always curable. However, Melanoma can advance and metastasize to other parts of the body where it becomes difficult to treat and can be fatal. The most common places for Melanoma metastasis are the bones, brain, intestines, liver, and lungs.

Melanoma cases have increased by over 53% in the past ten years and nearly tripled in the past 35 years.  It is estimated approximately 178,560 people in the United States will be diagnosed with Melanoma this year out of which 91,270 cases will be invasive penetrating the epidermis into the skin’s second layer (the dermis). Approximately 9,320 patients will die out of which 5,990 will be men and 3,330 will be women.

Basal Cell Carcinoma/Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The most common skin cancer is Basal cell and the second most common is Squamous cell.  In fact, combined they are the most common type of all cancer tumors.  Usually appearing on the head and neck as small, fleshy bumps or nodules but can also be found on other skin areas. These two types of cancer are less likely to metastasize. However, they should not be taken lightly, because, in rare cases, it can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.  Combined, over 5.3 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year resulting in approximately 8,000 deaths.


American Cancer Society

Skin Cancer Foundation

Melanoma Research Foundation