At Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center, you have access to the latest advances in melanoma treatment from a compassionate team of experienced health care professionals. The T.W. Lewis Melanoma Center of Excellence delivers a comprehensive melanoma program from prevention to survivorship. The Center is dedicated to providing advanced testing, treatment, support, research and education for melanoma.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in skin cells called melanocytes. These cells produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin, hair and eyes color. Other names for this cancer are malignant melanoma and cutaneous melanoma.
Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but more dangerous. If it spreads to other parts of the body, it can be life-threatening. However, it’s often curable in early stages, so prompt diagnosis is key.
Melanoma can start on an existing mole or develop from a new growth or spot. Melanoma can look like anything, so the biggest clue a mole might be melanoma is if it changes over time – size, shape or color.
Melanoma usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the back, chest, legs, neck and face. It also can form in “hidden areas” like fingernail beds, the soles of the feet and palms. There are also types of melanoma that occur in the eyes (ocular melanoma), mouth (oral melanoma) and genitals. The most aggressive form of melanoma is nodular melanoma, which accounts for 15% to 25% of diagnoses.
If you have concerns about your melanoma or skin cancer, contact our specialists at Banner MD Anderson.
Exposure to the sun and ultraviolet (UV) radiation increases your risk of developing melanoma. Other risk factors include having fair complexion, a previous melanoma, many nonmalignant and/or atypical moles and a family history of melanoma. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma cases continue to rise, causing an estimated 106,110 new invasive melanoma cases annually, 101,280 new in situ melanoma cases annually and one death every 54 minutes.
Melanoma is one of the most frequent cancers in young adults ages 25 to 39, and the main cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old. Living in places with more sunlight, such as Arizona, Florida or Hawaii increases risk for melanoma. Also, blistering sunburns as a child or any tanning bed use (even one time) can significantly increase your risk of getting a melanoma.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on the skin, but they are more likely to start on areas regularly exposed to the sun. Melanomas are most common on the chest and back in men and on the legs in women.
The skin cancer team at Banner MD Anderson is made up of experienced surgical, medical and radiation oncologists, dermatologists, as well as other highly skilled health care professionals and support staff.
The biggest risk factor for melanoma is sun exposure. Be sure to always use sunscreen and do regular at-home skin exams to reduce your risk. Be sure to always protect your skin by staying in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are in the sun wear protective clothing, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat and use at least SFP 30 sunscreen. Perform regular at-home skin exams and if you spot something unusual, contact your doctor. If you are a high risk for skin cancer, get a skin screening exam every year.
The way most melanoma is diagnosed is when patients notice a change to a mole or a new spot on their skin that prompts them to see a doctor.
To diagnose melanoma, doctors need to take a biopsy. Certain characteristics of your melanoma may make it more likely to spread (thickness and ulceration). Your doctor may recommend further procedures after the biopsy to see if the melanoma has spread. The stage of melanoma is determined by how thick in the skin it has grown and if it has spread to other parts of your body.
Melanoma is usually treated with surgery and/or other therapies. If found early, melanoma is usually curable. If melanoma has already spread, then treatments such as immunotherapy or targeted therapy may be offered.
Below are some helpful resources to help you learn about melanoma and how you can protect yourself and your kids against it: