Melanoma: Types, Causes, and Treatment

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that rapidly mutates and develops in the skin’s pigment cells, called melanocytes. Melanoma is more serious than other types of skin cancer since it has a tendency to spread to other parts of the body. 

Melanoma usually occurs on easily-noticed areas of the skin. Men are more likely to develop it on their chest and back while women typically find it on their legs. Early detection of melanoma is crucial for successful treatment. 

Types of Melanoma

There are 4 main types of melanoma:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma – This is the most common type of melanoma. It usually appears on the torso, arms, or legs and tends to grow outwards, spreading across the skin’s surface.
  • Nodular melanoma – This form of melanoma usually appears on the head, neck, or torso. It grows downwards into the skin and tends to spread more rapidly compared to other types of melanoma.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma – This type is more common in older people. It tends to develop on skin that has been overexposed to the sun, such as the face.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma – This rare form of melanoma usually appears on the palms, soles, or under the nails. 

Early Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

Here are some early signs to watch out for:

  • Changes in an existing mole – asymmetry in shape, change in color, shape, or size
  • Unusual pigment change or growth on your skin
  • Spots that are tender, painful, or itchy
  • Spots or lumps that bleed, look shiny, or look ulcerated
  • Red spots that may appear dry, scaly, or rough
  • Sores on the skin that does not heal

Causes of Melanoma

The following are some factors that increase the risk of melanoma:

  • Several freckles or moles 
  • Fair or pale skin that does not tan easily 
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Overexposure to the sun
  • Excessive UV light exposure
  • Red or blonde hair
  • Weakened immune system
  • Previous diagnosis of skin cancer
  • Old age

Treatment Options for Melanoma

Surgery is the preferred treatment option for melanoma. This option includes the surgical removal of the lesion and the noncancerous tissue surrounding it. If the melanoma is spread across a large area of the skin, a skin graft may be needed. Your doctor may even recommend radiation therapy for treating melanoma in later stages. 


If the melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes, a lymph node biopsy will be required to remove it. If it has spread to other organs of the body, your doctor may suggest treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy.

For more information on melanoma and its treatment, contact us at (907) 276-3676.


Dr. Madhu Prasad, M.D., FACS

Dr. Madhu Prasad has over 30+ years of experience working as a general surgeon and surgical oncologist and providing the highest level of care in Anchorage, Alaska. He believes in providing quality care to patients and their families. Inspired by compassion and humanism, Dr. Prasad and his team work for the well-being of their patients.

Alaska Cancer Treatment Center

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