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Cutaneous Melanoma

Cutaneous melanoma is cancer that starts in the pigment-making cells of the skin.

It causes more than 10,000 deaths each year but has a 98 percent five-year survival rate when caught early.

Some melanomas are non-cutaneous but these are extremely rare.

Non-cutaneous melanomas tend to show up in places that we don't often think of as skin, such as the:

  • Eyes.
  • Inside of the nose.
  • Mucous membranes (inside the mouth, vagina, anus, and rectum).

There are a few types of cutaneous melanomas — some are more common, and others are quite rare.

Superficial Spreading Melanomas (SSM)

SSM is the most common type, making up 70 percent of diagnosed melanomas. It starts growing in the top layer of skin and gets deeper over time.

A confirmed SSM diagnosis often occurs after you, a loved one, or your doctor notices a normal mole that:

Nodular Melanoma

This is the second most-common melanoma. About 15 percent of cutaneous melanomas are of this type.

Nodular melanoma:

  • Tends to grow deep into the tissues rather than spreading like an SSM.
  • Often forms on the head and neck.
  • May be harder to diagnose because their progress is hard to see.

Nodular melanoma signs and symptoms

Signs of nodular melanoma include:

  • Shape. A firm, dome-shaped bump that sticks out.
  • Size. Is larger than other moles on your body.
  • Color. Dark, blackish-blue, dark brown, or reddish-blue.
  • Feel. Very firm to touch.

Nodular melanoma causes symptoms like other skin cancers, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Itching
  • Oozing
  • Stinging

Lesions

These are a less common type of cutaneous melanoma.

Lesions can occur:

  • On the soles of the feet.
  • Under the fingernails.
  • On the palms of the hands.
  • On the skin of the head and neck.

They may look like:

  • Sunspots
  • Bruises
  • Dark streaks
  • Dark spots
  • An unusual tan

If you have strange darkening of any area of your skin, consult your dermatologist or PCP.

Even if the cause isn't cancer, skin darkening can relate to other health problems that may need treatment.

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides free skin cancer screenings on the third Friday of each month. To make an appointment for a free screening, call 412-692-4724.

Contact the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program

To learn more about cutaneous melanoma care at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, call us at 412-647-2811.