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What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious kind of skin cancer. Melanin is created by cells called melanocytes and gives your skin its particular color. It is in these cells that the condition develops, hence its name. While most common on the skin, melanoma can occur in the eyes or in the nose or throat, though the latter scenarios are quite rare.

Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

Visible melanomas that appear on the skin are the easiest to spot. Those with darker skin may experience higher rates of hidden melanomas in the nails or under the feet.

Signs of melanoma are:

  • Changes an existing mole
  • The appearance of a new growth on your skin

Melanoma can involve existing moles but it can also appear on skin with no moles, as well.

What Causes Melanoma?

The skin cells in our bodies typically develop in an orderly fashion. Newer cells push older cells towards the surface of the skin, where they are shed. Cells that have developed DNA damage, however, grow in a far less orderly fashion forming cancerous masses. A combination of environmental and genetic triggers likely cause melanoma. Risk factors for the disease include fair skin, excess exposure to UV light, having many moles or a history of melanoma and a weakened immune system.

How Melanoma is Treated

Treatment can vary, depending on what stage the melanoma is in. Early-stage melanomas are often treated with surgery to remove the growth. When melanomas are very thin, they can be removed during biopsy.

If melanoma has spread to other areas of the body, treatment can include:

  • Surgery
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted drug treatments
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Any treatment for melanoma will be done in careful consultation with your doctor and address the particular needs of your case.

Related Treatments


A biopsy works by taking a small sample of tissue from a suspect area in the body so that it can be tested under lab conditions for certain diseases and disorders. Learn More


Dermoscopy is a technique for evaluating the subsurface of the skin and diagnosing affected areas and lesions. Learn More


Excision is a minimally-invasive surgery technique used to remove moles, skin growths and lesions. Learn More

Fluorouracil (5FU)

Fluorouracil works to slow this growth by killing off the fast-growing cells in the affected region of the skin. Learn More


Imiquimod is a topical cream that stimulates the immune system. Learn More


Mohs, or Mohs surgery, is a surgical technique used to treat skin cancer through the removal of skin lesions and growths. Learn More

Surgical Removal Excursion

Surgical removal excursion is a minor surgical procedure used in the treatment of lower risk skin cancers. Learn More

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