What is Melanoma?

Melanoma represent a form of cancer that usually forms on the skin, but occasionally manifests in the eyes or mucous membranes instead. People with any skin tone can develop these tumors, but fair skinned individuals who get a lot of sun damage over the years are at the highest risk for cutaneous melanoma.

Family history also plays a large role in susceptibility to melanoma together with excessive sun exposure, having many moles and living closer to the equator or at high altitudes (where UV light is more aggressive.)

What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?

Checking your skin regularly allows you to catch unusual symptoms early, leading to prompt treatment of cancer before it spreads. Cutaneous melanoma causes symptoms like:

  • New moles or blemishes that grow rapidly, feature a blurred or uneven edge, and have a multicolored appearance
  • Movement of skin pigments outside of the edges of existing moles or marks
  • Itchiness or pain in a new or existing growth
  • Bleeding, discharge, or large patches of skin flaking off of an area of skin.

Moles and other blemishes that indicate skin cancer can develop on your scalp and remain hidden by your hair, so thoroughness during a monthly skin self-exam is essential. For melanoma of the eye, symptoms include color changes, double vision, painful or red eyes, and bulging sensations. Mole-like growths in your mucous membranes may be a form of melanoma as well.

How is Melanoma Treated?

As with many other forms of cancer, surgery is a primary choice for removing the affected skin.

Radiation is preferred for eye melanomas, but in severe cases the entire eye is removed to prevent the cancer from spreading to the rest of the body. Laser therapy also works for destroying cancer cells while leaving as much of your eye intact as possible. Immunotherapy is also used for advanced cases of melanoma, along with systemic and regional chemotherapy.

Last Reviewed:
October 07, 2016
Last Updated:
August 30, 2017