Melanoma occurs when the melanocytes, which are cells that create the pigment (called melanin) in the skin and eyes, become cancerous. Melanocytes are in the lower part of the outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis.

Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer, and it is diagnosed more often in adults than in children or adolescents. It can occur anywhere on the body, but for men, melanoma most often affects the trunk, head or neck, and for women, it most often affects on the arms and legs.

More than 76,000 melanoma cases are diagnosed each year in the United States.

There is no such thing as a routine melanoma. Every patient’s disease is different, with different, individually unique genes and molecules driving that specific cancer.

At the OSUCCC – James, our melanoma subspecialists are world-renowned cancer experts who focus solely on these tumors and who reach across medical disciplines (medical oncologists, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, dermatologists, head and neck specialists, pharmacists, nurse subspecialists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s specific cancer.

In fact, our unique Multidisciplinary Melanoma Clinic offers all newly diagnosed melanoma patients an on-site, thorough evaluation and treatment-options review with experts from radiation oncology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, neuro oncology and dermatology – all on the same day – so that together, the patient and the experts can decide on the best personalized treatment options.

Additionally, patients have access to advanced treatment procedures performed only at the OSUCCC – James by internationally recognized experts in melanoma.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are often available for their treatment and care.

Melanoma Epidermal Anatomy

Types of Melanoma

The OSUCCC – James specialists will classify the type of melanoma based on where the cancer occurs and on careful analysis of the subtypes of cancer cells.

Melanoma may be classified as:

  • Cutaneous melanoma, which develops in skin cells
  • Mucous membrane melanoma, which develops in the moist, thin layers that cover organs and cavities, such as the lips
  • Ocular melanoma

The OSUCCC – James melanoma experts further classify melanoma based on the cancer’s cellular and molecular make-up. These classifications includes:

  • Superficial spreading
  • Nodula
  • Lentigo maligna
  • Acral lentiginous (palmar/plantar and subungual)
  • And further unusual types, including:
    • Mucosal lentiginous (oral and genital)
    • Desmoplastic
    • Verrucous

(Source: National Cancer Institute)

Melanoma Symptoms

Melanoma symptoms include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area.

The OSUCCC – James melanoma specialists recommend performing a monthly skin self-exam (the ABCD method) to look for areas on your skin with any of the following:

A – Asymmetry: one half of a mole or lesion does not look like the other half.

B – Border: the edges of a mole or lesion are uneven or look ragged.

C – Color: the color of a mole or lesion is not the same all over, hav more than one shade or color to it.

D – Diameter: the size of the mole or leasion is larger than a pencil eraser (about 6 millimeters).

E – Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, color or beginning to bleed.

Other symptoms may include:

  • satellite moles – new moles that grow near an existing one
  • new changes in size, shape or color
  • sores that won’t heal
  • a mole or lesion that oozes, bleeds or forms a hole in the skin when the top layer of cells break down, allowing the tissue below to show through (ulceration)

At the OSUCCC – James, our melanoma specialists and subspecialists emphasize the importance of early detection, when chances for treatment outcomes are the best.

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have melanoma. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms have continued for longer than a few weeks.

If you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a melanoma specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

Toward a Cancer-Free World Blog

To mark Skin Cancer Awareness Month, The James' Dr. Harrison Howard explains the ABCs—and Ds and Es—of melanoma. Read More

The James Cancer-Free World Podcast

More people are diagnosed with skin cancer and melanoma than all other cancers combined, and one in five will be diagnosed with this type of cancer in their lifetime. Dr. Spaccarelli is a James expert in this area and explains what skin cancer and melanoma are, the differences, how you can reduce your risk and prevent this type of cancer, and some treatment breakthroughs that are saving lives.


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