Education, prevention and support for the most serious form of skin cancer.

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Learn about Melanoma

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer.  Like other cancers, melanomas start when a particular cell or group of cells in your body begins to grow in an uncontrolled and dangerous way so they can invade surrounding tissues and potentially spread to other parts of the body.  This happens when the DNA in a cell mutates so an abnormal cancerous clone of cells are produced. Most melanomas begin in a part of the skin called the dermal-epidermal junction, which is located between the epidermis and the dermis of the skin.  As melanomas grow, they produce more cancer cells and invade deeper into the skin; they can potentially then invade the local tissues and spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body. However, when melanomas are detected soon after they begin, the chances that the cancerous cells can be removed completely before metastasizing are very high. This means that a melanoma that is diagnosed in its early stages has a high chance of being completely cured.

What does a melanoma look like on your skin?

Melanomas either start in a mole that is already present on your skin or can begin as a new spot on your skin.  Melanomas may be only the size of a pinhead when they begin and grow larger and deeper with time.

Melanomas usually have some or more of the ABCDE signs:

  • Asymetry
  • Border irregularity
  • Color variation (especially the color black)
  • Diameter of more than 6 mm; and
  • Evolving

If a spot on your skin changes and continues to change in color, shape, and/or size you should be checked by a health care professional, even if it is a small mole.

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