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Cutaneous Melanoma

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

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

Some melanomas are non-cutaneous.

Non-cutaneous melanomas are extremely rare.

They 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)

Types of Cutaneous Melanomas

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.

A confirmed SSM diagnosis often occurs after the patient, loved one, or 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.

They may be harder to diagnose, because their progress is hard to see.


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:

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

If you have any unusual darkening of any area of your skin, consult your dermatologist or primary care doctor for further evaluation.

Even if the cause is not 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 every month at Hillman Cancer Center. 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.