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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.

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, yet it can spread to the organs and bones if it is not detected and treated early. 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
  • Tendency to freckle

Melanoma: Signs

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: Diagnosis and treatments

  • 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.
  • 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 that have not spread to other parts of the body.
  • When melanoma is more advanced, patients may need to undergo a biopsy of nearby lymph nodes to determine if the cancer has spread. Depending on various factors, further treatment may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or immunotherapy.

Related conditions & treatments

Commission on Cancer Accredited Program - A Quality Program of the American College of Surgeons

The UF Health Jacksonville cancer program is accredited by the Commission on Cancer, a quality program of the American College of Surgeons.

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News and Patient Stories: Melanoma

New chair of surgery happy to return to UF

March 21, 2016

D. Scott Lind, MD, FACS, is happy about returning to the University of Florida, though on a different campus and assuming a new role. Lind is the new chair of…

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