Five Facts You Need to Know About Melanoma

Because melanoma only accounts for around 1 percent of all skin cancers, it isn’t very frequently discussed. However, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of melanoma and to know what your next steps should be if you notice something unusual. For individuals who have been diagnosed with melanoma, it can be helpful to know more about the diagnosis, including the treatment options and how to achieve the best possible quality of life.

Melanoma awareness information

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we believe that awareness is essential. Early detection of all cancers – including malignant melanoma – saves lives. Furthermore, when patients have the information they need to become active participants in their own treatment, they’re able to make better decisions. That’s why we created the following list of fast facts about melanoma that everyone should know:

  • Melanoma doesn’t always involve a mole. While most people envision irregular or asymmetrical moles when they think about skin cancer, melanoma can take several different forms. It can be a small, scaly patch on a lip or eyelid or it can be a darkened stripe underneath a fingernail.
  • Like other skin cancers, melanoma is often caused by sun exposure, but the exposure pattern can be different. Nonmelanoma skin cancers are often a result of years upon years of tanning, either outdoors or in an indoor UV tanning bed. Melanomas, however, are more likely to develop after short but intense periods of sun exposure that result in severe, blistering sunburns.
  • There may be a gene that makes certain people more likely to develop melanoma than others. While lifestyle factors are still the strongest predictor of melanoma, researchers have found that mutations in the CDKN2A gene, which is passed down from parent to child, may make a person more susceptible to developing this type of skin cancer. Genetic testing may be an option to help people determine their personal melanoma risk.
  • In certain situations, new diagnostic technologies allow oncologists to check for melanoma without removing any skin. While traditional biopsies are still the most reliable way to diagnose melanoma, reflectance confocal microscopies or "optical biopsies" allow oncologists to visually assess a mole without cutting into a lesion.
  • Surgery is the most common form of treatment, but research has produced a variety of other options. Immunotherapies and targeted therapies are now being developed for melanoma and made available to patients through clinical trials.

Learn more about diagnosis and treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center

If you’d like to learn more about malignant melanoma, Moffitt is here to answer your questions. You do not need a referral to request an appointment. Call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.