Hamilton Skin Clinic

About Melanoma

Melanoma is one of the most serious skin cancers. If untreated, it can spread uncontrolled through the body causing serious illness or death.

Also known as

Malignant melanoma, superficial spreading melanoma, and invasive melanoma

Symptoms and signs

  • A new or changing mark on the skin, often irregular/asymmetrical in shape, with multiple colours and an indistinct border. Melanomas grow and change over time.
  • Some melanomas are raised and firm. They may bleed or feel irritated. This type of melanoma often grows quickly.

Risk factors

  • Previous history of melanoma or dysplastic/atypical moles
  • Multiple moles, especially in fair-skinned people
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Some medications, e.g. hydrochorothiazide, natalizumab (Tysabri), fingolimod (Gilenya)

Prognosis / outcome

Early melanoma (melanoma in situ) has an excellent prognosis, with close to 100% 5 year survival. Advanced melanoma which has spread from the original location to distant organs has a 5 year survival rate of approximately 30%.


Most melanomas continue to grow after they appear. Initially, most spread outwards on the surface of the skin (a pattern known as superficial spreading). This early growth phase does not usually involve deeper structures and therefore provides a valuable way of diagnosing melanoma before it causes harm. Eventually the melanoma grows into deeper layers and structures of the skin. If the melanoma invades blood or lymphatic vessels, cells can travel to other remote parts of the body, where secondary melanomas develop. Once the melanoma has reached this stage, it can cause serious illness or death.

Procedures for melanoma

  • Excision and excision biopsy

Prevention of melanoma

  • Avoid excessive ultraviolet exposure, especially intense sun exposure (enough to cause sunburn) at a young age, solarium use
  • After initial melanoma diagnosis, regular 3- to 6- monthly skin checks. Frequency depends on the depth/stage of the initial melanoma.

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