Is it melanoma?
Many questions arise when it comes to understanding melanoma: What is it? How can I identify it? Why is melanoma so deadly? What information do I need to know about melanoma to help me or help others?
If you think you have melanoma, or if you have been recently diagnosed with melanoma, you need to know the facts. The truth is, informed and empowered melanoma patients live longer, better lives. By learning everything you can about this disease – including how to catch it early, how to prevent it and lower your risk, and what to expect if you are diagnosed – you’ve already made important strides towards understanding melanoma. Most importantly, you will learn that you are not alone.
The basic facts about melanoma
Melanoma is a type of cancer, most often of the skin. It occurs in melanocytes, the cells that color the skin and make moles, or nevi. Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because it can spread to lymph nodes and distant organs. In 2019, over 192,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma. Of these, more than 96,000 will be diagnosed with invasive (Stage I-IV) melanoma and nearly 96,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma in situ. Read more melanoma facts and statistics here.
According to SEER data, there are an estimated 996,000 people living with melanoma in the United States.
Melanoma is classified in a few different ways:
- Cutaneous melanoma, which occurs on the skin and is the most common type of melanoma
- Mucosal melanoma, a rare form of melanoma that occurs in the mucous membranes, such as the nasal passages, throat, vagina, anus or mouth
- Ocular melanoma (or uveal melanoma), a rare form of melanoma that occurs in the eye
- Metastatic melanoma, not a type of melanoma, but a term used for melanoma that has spread beyond the original site to the lymph nodes or to distant organs
Want to learn more about melanoma? Download and print the MRF’s “It’s a Fact” sheet (PDF).
The importance of prevention and early detection
Wondering how to prevent melanoma? Research suggests that nearly 90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) exposure. Protecting your skin from UV radiation, like the sun and tanning beds, and performing monthly skin checks can help save your life.
Newly diagnosed patients should have a clear understanding of the following:
- The stage of their melanoma diagnosis
- How to read a pathology report
- Questions to ask their doctor
- All the treatment options available
- How to find and get support. Remember, you are not alone!