you can see from the graph, the majority of patients affected are
elderly, but it can affect younger individuals in the 20s and 30s as
well. Types of melanoma
Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type. In women, the most common place for it to start is on the legs. In men it’s on the chest and the back. The melanoma cells usually grow slowly at first and spread out across the surface of the skin.
Nodular melanoma is the second most
common type. It can grow more quickly than other melanomas and is
usually found on the chest, back, head or neck.
Lentigo maligna melanoma is usually found in older people in areas of skin that have had a lot of sun exposure over many years. It’s often found on the face and neck.
Acral melanoma is the rarest type and is usually found on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under fingernails or toenails. It’s more common in people with black or brown skin and isn’t thought to be as related to sun exposure.
Once the type of melanoma has been established, the next step is to classify the disease as to its degree of severity.
for melanomas are called stages. The stage refers to the thickness,
depth of penetration, and the degree to which the melanoma has spread.
The staging is used to determine treatment.
Stage I tumors have
invaded the skin but are small, nonulcerated, and are growing at a slow
mitotic rate. The five-year survival rate for stage 1a is 97 percent
and 92 percent for stage 1b. The 10-year survival rates are 95 percent
for stage 1a and 86 percent for Stage 1b, according to the American Cancer Society.
Stage II tumors,
though localized, are larger (generally over 1 mm. thick) and/or may be
ulcerated or have a mitotic rate of greater than than 1/mm2; they are
considered intermediate melanomas. The five-year survival rate for stage
2a is 81 percent and 70 percent for stage 2b. The 10-year survival
rates are 67 percent for stage 2a and 57 percent for stage 2b, according
to the American Cancer Society.
Stages III and IV have
spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. There are also
subdivisions within stages. At this point, the tumor can be any size or
shape. To be considered stage 3 melanoma, the cancer has to have spread
to the lymph system. Surgery to remove cancerous tissue and lymph nodes
is possible. Radiation therapy and treatment with other powerful
medications are also common stage 3 treatments. TheAmerican Cancer Society reports
the five-year survival rate for stage 3 melanoma ranges from 40 percent
to 78 percent. The 10-year survival rate ranges from 24 percent to 68
Stage 4 melanoma means the cancer has spread to other
parts of the body, such as the lungs, brain, or other organs and tissue.
It may have also spread to lymph nodes a good distance from the
original tumor. Stage 4 melanoma is difficult to cure. The five-year
survival rate is only about 15 percent to 20 percent. The 10-year
survival rate is 10 percent to 15 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.
its early stages, melanoma is a treatable condition. But, the cancer
must be identified and treated swiftly. Annual visits to a dermatologist
and self-checks can help you avoid melanomas and other types of skin
cancers. If you ever see a new mole or a suspicious mark on your skin,
have it evaluated by a dermatologist promptly. If your immune system is
weakened by a condition such as an organ transplant or HIV, getting
checked is especially important.
What to look for: