Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in patients under 35 and it is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. More than 50,000 new cases of melanoma occur in the U.S. every year and the trend is increasing compared with other malignancies, particularly in sunny states.

Melanoma can affect the skin only or, if not found and treated early, it can spread to the organs and bones. Spending too much time in the sun is a key factor in developing melanoma, which causes normal skin cells to grow out of control and attack the tissues around them. Risk factors include family history, fair skin and hair, light eyes and a tendency to freckle.

The most important sign of melanoma is any change in the shape, size or color of a mole or other skin growth, such as a birthmark. Melanomas can be found anywhere on your body; however, most of the time, they are discovered on the upper back in both men and women and on the legs of women.

Melanoma looks like a flat, brown or black mole that has uneven edges and is usually in an irregular or asymmetrical shape. Unlike a normal mole or mark, a melanoma can change color, be lumpy or rounded, or become crusty, ooze, or bleed.

Melanoma is diagnosed when a biopsy reveals cancer cells are present. At that point, more tests are run to determine how far the cancer has spread and the appropriate treatment necessary. The most common treatment is surgery to remove the melanoma. If the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, that is all the treatment needed for early-stage melanomas. For late-stage melanomas, cancerous lymph nodes may need to be removed.

Melanoma requires aggressive, skillful and specialized treatment, where success is measured in millimeters of the initial intervention. Surgery to remove the tumor is normally the first step and may be all that is necessary for treatment of small melanomas. When melanoma is more advanced, patients need to undergo a biopsy of nearby lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread.

Related Services

The UF Health Cancer Center at Jacksonville offers the following services related to melanoma: