What Is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that begins and grows in skin cells called melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin, which gives skin its color). These are found in the deepest part of the epidermis (the top layer of your skin). The disease typically begins in a mole and can occur anywhere on the body.
- When caught and treated early, melanoma is a curable disease.
- Melanoma is a rare form of skin cancer. Unlike most other skin cancers, certain melanomas can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body.
- Although more melanomas are being diagnosed, the largest increases are being seen in stage I and early stage II melanomas, which have an excellent prognosis and are generally cured by surgery.
Melanoma Can Occur Anywhere on the Body
When melanoma starts in the skin, the disease is called cutaneous melanoma. Melanoma may also occur in mucous membranes (thin, moist layers of tissue that cover surfaces such as the lips). When melanoma occurs in the eye, it is called intraocular or ocular melanoma.
- In men, it is often on the skin of the head, neck, and trunk.
- In women, it is often on the legs, but is also common on the trunk and arms.
- In people with dark skin, it is usually under the fingernails, under the toenails, on the palms, or on the soles of the feet. Melanoma is rare in people with dark skin.