Last Reviewed : 12/28/2020

Melanoma, also known as malignant melanoma, is a type of cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. Melanomas typically occur in the skin but may rarely occur in the mouth, intestines, or eye. In women they most commonly occur on the legs, while in men they are most common on the back. Sometimes they develop from a mole with concerning changes including an increase in size, irregular edges, change in color, itchiness, or skin breakdown.

The primary cause of melanoma is ultraviolet light (UV) exposure in those with low levels of skin pigment. The UV light may be from either the sun or from other sources, such as tanning devices. About 25% develop from moles. Those with many moles, a history of affected family members, and who have poor immune function are at greater risk. A number of rare genetic defects such as xeroderma pigmentosum also increase risk. Diagnosis is by biopsy of any concerning skin lesion.

Avoiding UV light and the use of sunscreen may prevent melanoma. Treatment is typically removal by surgery. In those with slightly larger cancers, nearby lymph nodes may be tested for spread. Most people are cured if spread has not occurred. For those in whom melanoma has spread, immunotherapy, biologic therapy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy may improve survival. With treatment the five-year survival rates in the United States is 98% among those with localized disease and 17% among those in whom spread has occurred.[5] The likelihood that it will come back or spread depends how thick the melanoma is, how fast the cells are dividing, and whether or not the overlying skin has broken down.

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Globally, in 2012, it occurred in 232,000 people and resulted in 55,000 deaths. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. There are also high rates in Europe and North America while it is less common in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Melanoma is more common in men than women. Melanoma has become more common since the 1960s in areas that are mostly Caucasian.

We researched this topic for you and found the following best online resources. They are categorized into basic, advanced, and research level based on the extent of information you need. You will be taken to the respective websites by pressing on the links below.


Basic information: mayo clinic definition melanoma nhs uk skin cancer(melanoma) american academy of dermatology melanoma melanoma treatment (pdq®)–patient version web md melanoma new york times melanoma live science melanoma:symptoms treatment and prevention university of maryland melanoma and other skin cancers better health melanoma my health melanoma


Advanced information: medline plus melanoma medscape melanoma medicine melanoma dermnet nz melanoma candidian dermatology association cleveland clinic melanoma patient melanoma medical news today melanoma causes,symptoms and treatment radiopedia melanoma kegg pathway melanoma rare melanoma


Research: nouritza m. torossian, roy t. wallace, wen-jen hwu, and agop y. bedikian, “metastasis of ciliary body melanoma to the contralateral eye: a case report and review of uveal melanoma literature,” case reports in oncological medicine, vol. 2015, article id 427163, 5 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/427163 cindy l. lamerson, kristina eaton, joel l. sax, and mohammed kashani-sabet, “comparing melanoma invasiveness in dermatologist- versus patient-detected lesions: a retrospective chart review,” journal of skin cancer, vol. 2012, article id 187963, 5 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/187963 acral lentiginous melanoma of the foot and ankle: a case series and review of the literature by r bristow and katharine acland journal of foot and ankle research20081:11 doi: 10.1186/1757-1146-1-11 m. mccomiskey, c. iavazzo, m. datta, et al., “balloon cell urethral melanoma: differential diagnosis and management,” case reports in obstetrics and gynecology, vol. 2015, article id 919584, 4 pages, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/919584

ratnam b v. desmoplastic melanoma presenting as pyogenic granuloma: report of a case with review of literature. indian j dermatol [serial online] 2010 [cited 2016 jun 28];55:284-9. available from: current management and novel agents for malignant melanoma by byung lee,nikhil mukhi and delong liu journal of hematology & oncology20125:3 doi: 10.1186/1756-8722-5-3 cancers 2010, 2(2), 397-419; doi:10.3390/cancers2020397 review:current research and development of chemotherapeutic agents for melanoma by kyaw minn hsan et al., : safaee ardekani g, jafarnejad sm, tan l, saeedi a, li g (2012) the prognostic value of braf mutation in colorectal cancer and melanoma: a systematic review and meta-analysis. plos one 7(10): e47054. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047054 rev. esp. enferm. dig. vol.105 n.8 sep. 2013 pictures in digestive pathology primary malignant melanoma of the esophagus: misdiagnosis and review of literature by ming-liang lu et al., søren k. o. abildgaard and henrik vorum, “proteomics of uveal melanoma: a minireview,” journal of oncology, vol. 2013, article id 820953, 11 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/820953 minimally invasive liver resection to obtain tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes for adoptive cell therapy in patients with metastatic melanoma by melissa m alvarez-downing et al., world journal of surgical oncology201210:113 doi: 10.1186/1477-7819-10-113 pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of primary melanoma of the colon by umair khalid et al., world journal of surgical oncology20119:14 doi: 10.1186/1477-7819-9-14


Other helpful resources(support groups): skin cancer foundation melanoma research foundation melanoma new zealand melanoma research alliance american melanoma foundation


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Presentations/quiz/newspaper articles: moles are not the only sign of deadly skin cancer: most melanoma patients 'have fewer than 20 - and none that look dangerous'

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