Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes (the cells that give the skin its tan or brown color) start to grow out of control. It is known for being the most serious type of skin cancer because it often spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body if not caught early.

Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, but it is more likely to start on the trunk (chest and back) in men, and on the legs in women. The neck and face are also common sites.

This cancer is usually caused by intense exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, either from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds. People with fair skin, a history of sunburns, many moles, a family history of melanoma, and certain genetic disorders are at higher risk.


Early detection is key; when melanoma is detected and treated early, the chances of survival are quite high. If untreated, melanoma may grow deeper into the skin where it can spread to various parts of the body, at which point it becomes more difficult to treat and can be fatal.

The main treatment options include surgery, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy. Different treatments might be necessary based on the stage of the cancer and the patient’s overall health.

It is always advisable to do regular skin checks for any new or unusual growths. And sun protection methods such as wearing sunblock, protective clothing, and avoiding the sun during the peak hours of UV exposure can greatly reduce the risk of melanoma.

Causes of Skin cancer (melanoma)

Skin cancer, specifically melanoma, is caused by various factors. It primarily occurs when mutations develop in the DNA of your skin cells, causing them to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells. Here are the key factors contributing to these mutations:

1. Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation: Both the sun and tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation that can damage the skin and lead to melanoma. Excessive exposure to these sources, especially without proper protection, may lead to cancer.

2. Moles: Having abnormal or numerous moles may increase your risk of melanoma. These moles may indicate damaged DNA or be a sign of past sun exposure.

3. Skin Type: People with fair skin are more prone to melanoma because they possess less melanin – a pigment that offers some protection from harmful UV radiation.

4. Genetics: Some people inherit genes from their parents that make them more susceptible to melanoma. One such gene is the p16 gene, mutations of which can significantly increase melanoma risk.

5. Age and Gender: The risk of developing melanoma increases with age. However, it can occur in younger people as well. In fact, it’s one of the most common cancers in people younger than 30. Men tend to have a higher rate of melanoma than women.

6. Weakened Immune System: People with weakened immune systems, like those with HIV/AIDS or those taking immunosuppressant drugs after organ transplants, are at an increased risk.

7. Previous Cancer: If you’ve had melanoma or another type of skin cancer previously, it increases the chances of you developing it again.

8. Environment: Some studies suggest that exposure to certain chemicals, particularly those used in oil refining, coal processing, and the manufacture of textiles and PVC might increase the risk of developing melanoma.

9. Personal or Family History: Those with a history of skin cancer in their family, or who have had it themselves, are at an increased risk of getting it again.

To lower the risk of skin cancer, it’s important to protect yourself from UV radiation, avoid unnecessary sun exposure, regularly check your moles, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Risk Factors of Skin cancer (melanoma)

There are several risk factors associated with the development of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, which include:

1. Sun Exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer, especially combined with prolonged sun exposure that leads to sunburns.

2. Skin Type: People with fair skin, freckles, light hair and light eyes have a higher risk because they have less melanin, which is the pigment that provides some protection from harmful UV radiation.

3. Age: While it can occur at any age, melanoma is more likely to occur in older adults. However, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults, especially young women.

4. Family History: If a close relative (parent, sibling, or child) has had melanoma, your own risk is heightened.

5. Personal History: If you’ve had melanoma once, you have a higher risk of getting it again.

6. Moles: People with many moles or unusual moles called dysplastic nevi, which can look like melanoma, are at an increased risk.

7. Weakened Immune System: Individuals with weakened immune systems, either from certain disorders or medications, are more likely to develop melanoma.

8. Exposure to Certain Substances: Exposure to certain chemicals or radiation can increase risk.

9. History of Sunburns: People who have had one or more severe, blistering sunburns have an increased risk of melanoma.

10. Tanning: Using tanning beds or sun lamps can increase the risk of melanoma.

It’s important to note that having one or more of these risk factors does not mean a person will definitely get melanoma. Many people with these risks never develop the disease, and some people without any of these risk factors do get melanoma. Regular examinations of skin and consultation with a doctor for any suspicious marks, moles or changes would be prudent.

Signs and Symptoms of Skin cancer (melanoma)

Sure, here are some key signs and symptoms of melanoma:

1. Abnormal Moles or Growths: They may appear anywhere on your body. The ABCDE rule is often used to differentiate normal moles from melanoma. It stands for Asymmetry, Border irregularities, Color variations, Diameter larger than 6 mm, and Evolution or changes in the mole’s appearance.

2. Pain or itchiness: A mole or skin lesion may start to itch or feel tender. Sometimes the area can feel painful to touch.

3. Bleeding or Oozing: A mole or skin spot may start to bleed or ooze.

4. Shiny, firm bump: The appearance of a shiny pink, red, pearly white, or translucent bump might be a symptom.

5. Hard, scaly or crusted skin: This could present as a rough patch that doesn’t go away with moisturization or refreshing.

6. Change in sensation: There may be a change in sensations in the mole or surrounding skin, possibly including tenderness, pain, or a loss of sensation.

7. Sores that do not heal: A sore or wound that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, or a wound that heals and then breaks down again.

8. Spread of pigment: Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into the surrounding skin.

9. Redness or swelling: Redness or new swelling beyond the border.

Remember, early detection is the key to treating melanoma. It’s important to examine your skin from head to toe regularly, noting any new skin lesions or changes in existing ones. If you notice any of the mentioned signs or anything unusual, consult with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

Diagnosis Skin cancer (melanoma)

Skin cancer, specifically melanoma, is a type of cancer that begins in the melanocytes – the cells that produce melanin which is the pigment that colors your skin, hair, and eyes. Melanoma can appear on normal skin, or it might begin as a mole or other area that has changed in appearance.

While melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancers, it’s more likely to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body if not detected early. Here are some key factors to understand about melanoma:

1. Causes: The exact cause of melanoma isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma. Other factors include a family history of melanoma, fair skin, history of sunburn, excessive sun exposure, living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation.

2. Symptoms: Melanomas often come in the shape of a new, unusual growth or a change in an existing mole. They can occur anywhere on the body, but in men, they most often appear on the face or the trunk. In women, this type of cancer most often develops on the lower legs.

3. Diagnosis: Melanoma is diagnosed through a skin exam where doctors may take a sample (biopsy) of suspicious skin for testing.

4. Treatment: The treatment for melanoma depends on the stage of the disease. It can range from surgical removal, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or in advanced stages, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

5. Prevention: Regular use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more, wearing UV-protective clothing, avoiding the sun during peak hours, and staying away from tanning beds can all help reduce the risk of melanoma. Regular self-examinations and annual skin checks with a dermatologist is also key to early detection and successful treatment.

Treatment of Skin cancer (melanoma)

The treatment for skin cancer such as melanoma is based on the stage of the cancer, the size and location of the tumor, the patient’s overall health and personal preferences. Each individual case is unique, and the treatment plan might vary. Here are few of the most common treatments:

1. Surgery: This is the primary treatment for melanoma. It involves removing the cancerous tissue, as well as a surrounding margin of healthy skin to ensure all cancer cells have been removed. In the event the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, these may also need to be removed.

2. Immunotherapy: This is a type of therapy that boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. It utilizes substances made by the body or in a laboratory to enhance or restore the immune system’s function.

3. Targeted Therapy: This type of treatment targets the specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. These therapies can cause cancer cells to die or slow their growth.

4. Radiation Therapy: In certain cases, high-power energy beams may be used to destroy cancer cells. This could potentially be used after surgery if there’s a risk that not all cancer cells were completely removed.

5. Chemotherapy: In this treatment, drugs are used to kill cancer cells or to stop them from growing and dividing. This treatment can be systemic (reaching cancer cells throughout the body) or regional (to specific parts of the body).

6. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT): This treatment uses medicine and a certain kind of light to kill cancer cells. The drugs only work after they have been activated or “turned on” by light.

Always keep in mind that each patient’s treatment plan will be unique and tailored according to their individual needs and condition’s specifics. It is also important to discuss any potential side effects or implications of the treatment with the healthcare provider.

Medications commonly used for Skin cancer (melanoma)

Melanoma skin cancer is often treated with a combination of procedures and medications. Here are some commonly used medications for treating melanoma:

1. Targeted Therapy Drugs: These drugs target specific genetic changes found in skin cancer cells. Some of these include BRAF inhibitors like vemurafenib (Zelboraf), dabrafenib (Tafinlar), encorafenib (Braftovi), and MEK inhibitors like trametinib (Mekinist), cobimetinib (Cotellic), and binimetinib (Mektovi).

2. Immunotherapy: This uses drugs to stimulate your own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Examples of these drugs include pembrolizumab (Keytruda), nivolumab (Opdivo), ipilimumab (Yervoy), and cemiplimab (Libtayo).

3. Chemotherapy: This is less common in melanoma treatment, but may still be used in some cases when the disease has spread extensively. Dacarbazine is one of the drugs used.

4. Interferon: This is a kind of drug that can stimulate the immune system to fight cancer. It is sometimes used after surgery to prevent the cancer from coming back.

5. Interleukin-2 (IL-2): High doses of this immune-boosting drug may be used for advanced melanoma, although it can cause severe side effects.

6. Biochemotherapy: This treatment combines chemotherapy with immune-boosting drugs like IL-2 and interferon.

It’s important to note that the specific treatment plan will depend on various factors, including the stage of the tumor, the patient’s overall health, and the patient’s personal preferences. Always consult with a healthcare professional or expert for specific individual advice.

Prevention of Skin cancer (melanoma)

Preventing skin cancer (melanoma) mainly involves protecting yourself from the sun and other sources of UV radiation. Here are simple steps to help keep your skin healthy:

1. Avoid intense sunlight: Most cases of melanoma are caused by too much exposure to the sun. Try to avoid going outside during the peak UV radiation hours, which are generally from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


2. Wear protective clothing: When you are out in the sun, try to cover as much of your body as possible. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants or long skirts, hats and sunglasses can provide protection.

3. Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to all exposed skin, even on cloudy days. Reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

4. Don’t use tanning beds or sunlamps: These devices emit UV rays that can be just as damaging as the sun. Even a single use can increase your risk of melanoma.

5. Regular skin checks: shape or color of existing moles. Early detection of melanoma can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment.

6. Protect children’s skin: Kids often spend more time outdoors, make sure they are protected as they could get sunburns that might increase the risk of skin cancer in the future.

7. Know your risk: If you have a family history of skin cancer, or you have light-colored skin, hair and eyes, you are at a higher risk of developing melanoma. Talk to your doctor about your risks and the best ways to manage them.

Remember that while skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, it is also one of the most preventable.

FAQ’s about Skin cancer (melanoma)

1. What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that arises from the pigment-producing cells known as melanocytes. It can develop anywhere on the body including areas not exposed to the sun.

2. What causes Melanoma?
The primary cause of melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which can come from both the sun and tanning beds. Having a lot of moles or having close family members who have had melanoma can also increase a person’s risk.

3. What are the symptoms of Melanoma?
Symptoms of melanoma can vary but often include a new, pigmented or unusual growth on the skin, changes to existing moles, or unusual sensations like itching or bleeding from a mole.

4. How is Melanoma diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks a spot on your skin may be melanoma, they will perform a biopsy, which involves removing some or all of the suspicious skin to examine under a microscope.

5. How is Melanoma treated?
Treatment usually involves surgical removal of the melanoma. If the disease has spread, treatments can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy or targeted therapies that aim to attack specific characteristics of the cancer cells.

6. Can Melanoma be prevented?
While not all cases of melanoma can be prevented, people can significantly reduce their risk by protecting their skin from excessive sun exposure, avoiding the use of tanning beds, and performing regular skin self-exams to detect early skin changes.

7. What is the survival rate for Melanoma?
The survival rate for melanoma depends on how early it is diagnosed. For localized melanomas that have not spread, the 5-year survival rate is about 99%. If the disease has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes, the rate drops to about 66%. For cases where melanoma has spread to distant parts of the body, the 5-year survival rate is about 27%.

Remember, these are general FAQs. For any specific concerns or symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider. They can provide more detailed and personalized information. Regular skin checks and early detection are key when dealing with melanoma.

Useful links

Melanoma, a type of skin cancer, arises from the pigment-producing cells in the skin. Although it is less common than other types of skin cancer, melanoma is more dangerous due to its tendency to spread to other parts of the body. The exact cause of melanoma is unclear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning lamps increases the risk of developing melanoma.

Below are a few links to scholarly articles from reputable journals about skin cancer (melanoma):


Remember, the provided links lead to scholarly articles and the language can be quite technical. If you want simpler explanations, check out resources like American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic, National Cancer Institute, and other such patient-friendly resources. Always consult with medical professionals for accurate information.

Complications of Skin cancer (melanoma)

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the cells (melanocytes) that produce melanin — the pigment that gives your skin its color. If not detected early, melanoma can lead to severe complications that include:

1. Disease progression and spread: Melanoma can grow deeper into the skin and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Once the cancer advances to these late stages, it becomes harder to treat. It can spread to organs like the lungs, liver, brain, bones, and digestive system.

2. Lymphedema: If lymph nodes are removed due to melanoma, this can cause lymphedema. This condition involves swelling in the arms and legs caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system.

3. Recurrence: Even after successful treatment, melanoma can come back (recur), either at the site of the removed tumor or in other parts of the body.

4. Immune system complications: Some treatments for melanoma, such as immunotherapy, involve boosting the immune system to fight cancer. This can result in some side effects or reactions including skin redness, itching, or rashes; nausea; and flu-like symptoms.

5. Psychological effects: Like any serious disease, melanoma can lead to depression, anxiety and fear, especially tests, results, treatments, and the chance of recurrence.

6. Scar and changes in appearance: Surgery for melanoma can cause scarring and changes in appearance, which can have an emotional impact.

7. Other health problems: People with melanoma may be at higher risk for other cancers or health problems, and are often more susceptible to damage from sun exposure.

It is important that people manage their risk factors for melanoma, including protecting oneself from the sun and getting regular skin examinations.

Home remedies of Skin cancer (melanoma)

It’s important to note that there are no home remedies that can treat or cure skin cancer or melanoma. Skin cancer is a serious condition that requires medical attention and treatment from healthcare professionals. Some people may think that certain lifestyle changes or natural treatments can help, but these should never replace conventional medical treatment.

That said, there are some complementary approaches that can support the body’s overall health during and after skin cancer treatment, but these should only be used under the supervision of your healthcare provider:

1. Balanced Diet: Consuming more fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants and vitamins, can help the body respond better to treatment and recover more efficiently.

2. Regular Exercise: Staying active can help maintain a healthy body weight, reduce anxiety, and boost your overall well-being. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting a new exercise routine.

3. Stress Management: Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or yoga can help manage the stress and anxiety associated with illness.

4. Sun Protection: Regularly apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, wear protective clothing and hats, and avoid peak UV times to help prevent further damage or a recurrence.

5. Regular checkups: If you’ve had skin cancer, regular checkups and self-examinations are crucial for early detection if it comes back.

Remember, these methods can’t treat or prevent skin cancer. If you observe any changes in your skin, such as a new mole, an existing mole that is changing, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in the color or texture of your skin, contact your healthcare provider right away.

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Last Update: January 5, 2024