About Melanoma

If you have or suspect you have a skin problem, please consult with a dermatologist, or other qualified professional healthcare provider.

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Definition of melanoma: A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.


Estimated new cases and deaths from melanoma in the United States in 2013:

  • New cases: 76,690
  • Deaths: 9,480




ONLINE BOOKLET: What You Need To Know About™ Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers to learn about melanoma symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and questions to ask the doctor.

VIEW PHOTOS:  What Does Melanoma Look Like?

VIDEO:  ASCO recommended VIDEO



What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer. Although accounting for only 4% of total skin cancer cases, it is the leading cause of skin cancer related deaths. The risk of developing melanoma is increasing, and most frighteningly, the cases of melanoma amongst young children are on the rise.

The main cause of melanoma is believed to be spending too much time in the sun, which results in exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. People with fair skin and lighter hair (those that tend to sunburn easily) are at greatest risk, but anyone who is exposed to large amounts of sunlight is at risk.




You may be at a higher risk for developing melanoma if you have at least 5 of the criteria below. Talk to family members and your doctor about whether you are at an increased risk and the steps you can take to prevent melanoma.

  • Fair skin, light hair color, light eye color: Light skin, blonde or red hair, and blue eyes provide less protection against damaging UV rays; however, having dark skin, hair and eyes does not eliminate your risk
  • Tanning bed use: Tanning bed use before the age of 30 increases your risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Learn more about why tanning is dangerous.
  • Exposure to UV radiation: Whether it’s from natural or artificial sources, limiting your UV exposure will help decrease your risk of getting melanoma
  • Family history of melanoma: If one or more of your immediate family members has been diagnosed, this increases your chance of a diagnosis
  • Sunburns at a young age: Just one blistering sunburn at a young age doubles your chances of a diagnosis
  • High number of moles: Individuals with 50+ moles have an increased risk
  • Previous melanoma diagnosis: A previous diagnosis increases your risk of a recurrence
  • Weakened immune system: Certain cancers and illnesses that weaken your immune system can place you at an increased risk
  • Previous non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis: If you have been diagnosed with basal or squamous cell carcinoma in the past, you are at increased risk
  • Age: Melanoma is most common in men over the age of 50 (more common than colon, prostate and lung cancer). Melanoma is the second most common cancer in teens and young adults and is the most common type of cancer for young adults.
  • Take care! Melanoma is the leading cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old and the second leading cause of cancer death in women 30 to 35 years old.




Here are a few simple tips to help reduce your risk of developing melanoma:

◊ Always use a sunscreen of Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 or higher
even on cloudy days and in the winter.

◊ Be sure to apply sunscreen all over, including your ears and lips.
◊ Stay out of the sun between 10AM and 3PM, when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
◊ See a dermatologist and get a skin and mole check.
** Early detection is the key to beating melanoma **

If you notice the change in appearance of a mole, don’t wait until your next check-up. See a dermatologist immediately.



Melanoma Quick Facts

Melanoma is epidemic. Melanoma is one of the fastest growing cancers in the U.S. and worldwide.
One in 50 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.

  • With a 1 in 50 lifetime risk of developing melanoma, nearly 77,000 Americans were expected to be diagnosed with the disease in 2013, resulting in over 9,400 deaths. 

  • In 2009, nearly 63,000 people were diagnosed with melanoma in the U.S., resulting in about 8,650 deaths.  In 1935, the disease struck only one in 1,500.
  • People under 30 are developing melanoma at an alarming rate – the incidence soaring by 50% in young women since 1980

  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25-29 & the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults aged 15-29

  • Every 8 minutes, someone in the U.S. will be diagnosed with melanoma

  • Every hour of every day, someone will die from the disease

  • One person dies every hour from melanoma.

  • Melanoma is the most common cancer in women ages 25-29 and second only to breast cancer in women 30-34.

  • Even though sunburn at any age causes melanoma, eighty percent of sun damage happens before age 18.

  • Melanoma costs over $800 million dollars to treat annually.

  • Melanoma happens almost equally in the sexes: in 2003, 29,900 men had melanoma and 24,300 women had melanoma.

  • The death rate from melanoma for men is almost twice that of women due to late detection.