Start/Spread

Start/Spread

Can it start anywhere in the body?

It is most likely to start on sun-exposed skin areas but can also be found in the eyes (ocular melanoma), on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands (acral lentiginous melanoma), inside the mouth (oral melanoma), the genital-rectal areas, and non-sun-exposed areas.

How does it spread?

It can spread both locally and systemically. Local spread occurs as an enlargement of the spot either horizontally or vertically into adjacent tissue. Spread throughout the body (systemic) occurs when melanoma cells reach the lymphatic system and the bloodstream. These are the two main "fluid highways" of the body. The melanoma cells from the primary site are transported to another organ or location where new tumors can then develop.

How do I know if I have melanoma?

If you have any of the ABCDEF's in a new or long-standing skin spot, you should see a dermatologist (skin doctor) without delay. Sometimes the appearance of the spot will allow immediate recognition but a biopsy will need to be taken to finalize the diagnosis.

Can melanoma be cured?

The best chance for a cure is early detection, prompt removal, and close follow-up care.

How can I find a doctor to treat melanoma?

Your primary care physician or dermatologist should be able to give you a referral to a surgeon for removal of the melanoma. If needed, the surgeon can then refer you to an oncologist. Oncologists generally treat several different kinds of cancer. For example, your oncologist may treat melanoma, breast cancer and colon cancer patients. If available, an oncologist with a specialty in melanoma is preferable. These doctors are usually found at hospitals associated with university medical centers, in clinics at cancer research facilities, or in hospitals with designated cancer centers.

Is the rate of melanoma really increasing?

Melanoma rates continue to increase at a rate of 3-4% per year in the US. An overall increase of 2000% has occurred since 1935. The majority of tumors being diagnosed now are thinner, more localized melanomas. There has been an increase in both thin tumors and melanoma incidence in successive generations along with an increase in melanoma mortality. Combined, these three things support the idea that the observed melanoma increases are real and not the result of early detection (Brochez et al,2000).