Melanoma is a disease of the skin in which cancer starts in the melanocytes, the cells that produce color in the skin from a pigment known as melanin. Melanoma usually occurs in adults, but it may occasionally be found in children and adolescents. Melanoma may also be called cutaneous melanoma or malignant melanoma. Melanoma is an uncommon, but aggressive, form of skin cancer.
Melanoma is a more serious type of cancer than the more common basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Although the incidence of melanoma is lower than other types of skin cancer, it has the highest death rate and is responsible for most deaths from skin cancer.
Anyone can develop melanoma, but people who have the following risk factors have an increased risk:
Dark-brown or black skin is not a guarantee against melanoma. African Americans can develop this cancer, especially on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under nails or in the mouth.
Melanoma can develop on normal skin or from an already existing mole. It can take on a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. When checking for atypical moles and growths, you may find the ABCDEs of melanoma helpful in identifying worrisome growths:
Melanoma can spread quickly to other parts of the body through the lymph system or the bloodstream. Like most cancers, melanoma is best treated when it is diagnosed early.
Treatment for melanoma may be local, systemic or both:
The treatment goals for melanoma differ depending on the patient’s individual case. At UCLA Dermatology, our dermatologists, radiologists, surgical oncologists and other specialists work together to determine a treatment plan that is right for you.
A patient may need just one or a combination of treatments. Our physicians may recommend one or more of the following:
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-6911.