Melanoma is a type of cancer that begins in your skin's pigment cells, known as melanocytes. Melanocytes produce a brown-coloured pigment called melanin. This gives skin its colour. When melanocyte cells group together in the skin they can form a mole. Most moles are safe. However, sometimes the melanocytes in them begin to grow and divide in an uncontrolled way and form a melanoma. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer and it can spread quickly. It is treatable if it is caught early, but if the cancer spreads to other parts of your body, it can be life-threatening.
Melanomas can develop anywhere on your body. They most often develop in areas that have had exposure to the sun, such as your back, legs, arms and face.
Melanomas can also occur in areas that don't receive much sun exposure, such as the soles of your feet, palms of your hands and fingernail beds. These hidden melanomas are more common in people with darker skin.
The first melanoma signs and symptoms often are:
Melanoma doesn't always begin as a mole. It can also occur on otherwise normal-appearing skin.
Surgery is the primary treatment for melanoma. If nearby lymph nodes are enlarged and the doctor suspects cancer cells may have spread, the lymph nodes may need to be removed also.
If you are worried that you have a melanoma, please contact your doctor to arrange an examination. If the mole or lesion is suspicious, a sample (biopsy) will be taken.
A biopsy is a simple procedure in which lesion is surgically removed and sent to the lab for testing.
If the mole or lesion was found to be melanoma, your doctor will discuss with you what stage (how advanced) it is and the treatment required.