Alternative Names

Skin cancer – melanoma

Definition of Melanoma

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Melanoma can appear on normal skin, or it may begin as a mole or other area that has changed in appearance. Some moles that are present at birth may develop into melanomas.


The primary symptom of any skin cancer is usually a mole, sore, lump, or growth on the skin. Any change in appearance of a pigmented skin sore over time is a warning sign. Also, watch for any bleeding from a skin growth.

Signs and tests

If you notice any suspicious skin markings, see your health care provider as soon as possible.


The cancerous skin cells and some normal tissue that surrounds the cancer will need to be surgically removed. How much normal tissue is removed depends mostly on how deep the melanoma has grown.

Expectations (prognosis)

Treatment success depends on many factors, including the patient’s general health and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs.


Jonathan Kantor, MD, North Florida Dermatology Associates, Jacksonville, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 8/12/2009

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ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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