Skin Cancer Home > Melanoma

How Is It Treated?

If cancer cells are seen with the biopsy and a melanoma diagnosis is made, the patient and the doctor should work together to make appropriate treatment decisions.
In many cases, melanoma can be cured by minimal surgery if the tumor is discovered when it is thin (before it has grown downward from the skin surface) and before the cancer cells have begun to spread to other places in the body. However, if it is not found early, the cancer cells can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to form tumors in other parts of the body. Melanoma is much harder to control when it has spread. The spread of cancer is called metastasis.
(Click Melanoma Treatment for a closer look at how the condition is treated.)

What Causes Melanoma?

At this time, no one can explain why one person will get melanoma and another person will not. Research has shown that sun exposure, especially excessive exposure that leads to bad, blistering sunburns, is an important and avoidable risk factor. Scientists are continuing their studies to find possible causes of this condition.
(Click Causes of Melanoma for more information.)

Risk Factors for Melanoma

Learning about melanoma prevention and early detection is especially important for people who have an increased risk for developing the disease. People who are at an increased risk include those who have dysplastic nevi or a large number of ordinary moles.
Risk factors for melanoma include:
  • Dysplastic nevi
  • History of melanoma
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Weakened immune system
  • Several ordinary moles (more than 50)
  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation
  • Severe, blistering sunburns
  • Freckles
  • Fair skin.
It is important to remember that not everyone who has risk factors will get the disease. In fact, most do not. Also, about half the people who develop melanoma do not have any known risk factors for the condition.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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