Cancer Information at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center  

Melanoma Staging

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If you are diagnosed with melanoma, your doctor will determine the stage (extent) of the disease. Staging is a way of determining how much disease is in the body and where it has spread (metastasized). This information is important because it helps determine the best type of treatment for you and your outlook for recovery (prognosis).

Melanoma staging is based on:

  • Location(s) of the melanoma
  • Primary melanoma tumor thickness as well as other microscopic features
  • If it has spread to nearby lymph nodes – if so, how many and what size
  • If it has spread to other parts of the body

Stages I and II are based mainly on the thickness of the primary melanoma and other microscopic features. Stages III and IV are based on how far the melanoma has spread from the skin; stage III signifies regional spread and stage IV is based on distant spread.

Stage IA: Melanoma:

  • Is less than 1 millimeter thick without ulceration and
  • Has less than 1 mitosis (dividing cell) per square millimeter

Stage IB: Melanoma:

  • Is less than 1 millimeter thick with ulceration and/or at least 1 mitosis (dividing cell) per square millimeter or 
  • 1 to 2 millimeters thick without ulceration

Stage IIA: Melanoma is either:

  • 1 to 2 millimeters thick with ulceration or 
  • 2 to 4 millimeters thick with no ulceration

Stage IIB: Melanoma is either:

  • 2 to 4 millimeters thick with ulceration or 
  • More than 4 millimeters thick without ulceration

Stage IIC: Melanoma is more than 4 millimeters thick with ulceration

Stage IIIA: Melanoma:

  • Can be of any thickness, but without ulceration
  • Has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes that are not enlarged
  • Has not spread to distant organs 

Stage IIIB: Melanoma has one of the following:

  • Can be of any thickness, is ulcerated and has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes that are not enlarged; there is no distant spread 
  • Can be of any thickness, is not ulcerated  and has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes that are enlarged; there is no distant spread
  • Can be of any thickness, is not ulcerated and has spread to small areas of nearby skin or lymphatic channels, but the nodes do not contain melanoma; there is no distant spread

Stage IIIC: Melanoma has one of the following:

  • Can be of any thickness, is ulcerated, has spread to 1 to 3 nearby lymph nodes that are enlarged; there is no distant spread
  • Can be of any thickness, is ulcerated and has spread to small areas of nearby skin or lymphatic channels around the tumor, but the nodes do not contain melanoma; there is no distant spread
  • Can be of any thickness, may or may not be ulcerated, has spread to 4 or more nearby lymph nodes OR nearby lymph nodes that are clustered together OR has spread to nearby skin or lymphatic channels around the original tumor and lymph nodes; the nodes are not enlarged; there is no distant spread

Stage IV: Melanoma has spread (metastasized) to more distant lymph nodes and/or other distant organs.

Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center
Higley Road and US 60
2946 E. Banner Gateway Drive
Gilbert, AZ 85234
(480) 256-6444
(855) 256-6444

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