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What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the incidence of melanoma continues to rise. An estimated 96,500 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed this year and one death is caused by it every 54 minutes. It is one of the most frequently occurring cancers in young adults ages 20 to 30, and it is the main cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old.

Medically known as nevi, moles are benign, non-cancerous skin tumors that develop from melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin that gives skin its tan or brown color and help provide protection from the sun. Melanoma is cancer of the melanocytes.

What does melanoma look like?

While melanoma most commonly appears brown or black, it can also be pink, tan or even white.

What causes melanoma?

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, with sunlight being the primary source, and a history of sunburns are primary risk factors for melanoma.

Melanoma is most prevalent on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the back, chest, legs, neck and face; however, it can also form in other areas like the eyes, mouth and vagina. It is often curable in its early stages, but can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.

At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, we recognize that no two melanomas are alike. Therefore, our multidisciplinary team of experts works together to tailor treatment plans to the individual needs of each patient.

If you have concerns about melanoma or skin cancer, please contact your Primary Care Physician or Dermatologist for further discussion or screening.

Learn More About Melanoma

Cancer risk factors include exposure to chemicals or other substances, as well as certain behaviors. They also include things people cannot control, like age and family history.

View melanoma risk factors 

Most cancers have the same symptoms as other, less serious conditions. Still, it’s important to know the signs.

View melanoma symptoms 

Early and accurate diagnosis is essential to melanoma care and successful treatment. At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, we use the latest state-of-the-art technologies to diagnose and stage melanoma.

Learn more about melanoma diagnosis 

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).

Learn about melanoma staging 

Common cancer treatments include chemotherapy, radiation treatment and surgery. Doctors select the treatment for melanoma based on your diagnosis and disease stage.

View melanoma treatment options 

While not all melanomas can be prevented, there are many ways to reduce your risk.

Learn more about melanoma prevention

From screening and treatment to support and recovery, our cancer experts will be with you every step of the way. Our highly skilled physicians, nurses and staff provide excellent and compassionate medical care, education and support to meet your needs when faced with a melanoma diagnosis.

Learn about our Melanoma Center of Excellence