Benign Tumors That Start In Melanocytes
A mole is a benign skin tumor that develops from melanocytes. Almost everyone has some moles. Nearly all moles are harmless, but having some types can raise your risk of melanoma. See Risk Factors for Melanoma Skin Cancer for more information about moles.
A Spitz nevus is a kind of mole that sometimes looks like melanoma. Its more common in children and teens, but it can also be seen in adults. These tumors are typically benign and dont spread. But sometimes doctors have trouble telling Spitz nevi from true melanomas, even when looking at them under a microscope. Therefore, they are often removed, just to be safe.
What Are The Types Of Melanoma
Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops in the melanocytesthe cells in our skin that produce pigment. Cutaneous or skin melanoma occurs when these cancerous cells grow out of control and crowd out normal cells. Usually, cutaneous melanoma begins in the top layer of the skinthe epidermisand can become invasive from there. When the term melanoma is used, it is generally referring to cutaneous melanoma, because the vast majority of melanomas are of the skin.
There are four main subtypes of cutaneous melanoma: superficial spreading; nodular; lentigo maligna; and acral lentiginous. Other subtypes, such as desmoplastic and amelanotic melanoma, also exist but are rare.
The incidence of cutaneous melanoma appears to be on a steady rise throughout the world due to increased ultraviolet exposure from the sun and the use of tanning beds. In the U.S., the rates of melanoma have been rising for the last 30 years.
In 2021, an estimated 106,110 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive cutaneous melanomamelanoma that penetrates the skins second layer . It is estimated that about 6,850 people in the U.S. died of melanoma in 2020.
Besides cutaneous melanoma, there are four other general kinds of melanoma, all of which are less common than cutaneous melanoma.
Ocular melanoma and mucosal melanoma are types of non-cutaneous melanoma that develop in the eye and mucosal linings of the body , respectively.
Red Flag #: Abdominal Pain And Tenderness
Early on, there may be no noticeable symptoms that melanoma has spread to the liver. When symptoms do show up, they commonly include an enlarged, hard, or tender liver and pain in the upper right area of your abdomen, just below your ribs. Other signs cancer has spread to the liver are similar to symptoms of liver disease: fluid buildup in the belly and yellowing of the skin and eyes .
Also Check: How Dangerous Is Melanoma Skin Cancer
Stage : Melanoma In Situ
The earliest stage of melanoma is stage 0, also known as melanoma in situ or carcinoma in situ. In situ is a Latin phrase that means in position, and this diagnosis means that the cancer cells are present only in the epidermisthe bodys most superficial layer of skinand nowhere else.
This diagnosis has a very good prognosis, Noelani González, MD, an instructor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, tells Health. People with localized melanomas who are treated quickly have a 5-year survival rate of 97%meaning they are, on average, about 97% as likely to still be alive in five years as people who dont have these cancers.
Treatment for this stage cancer involves a wide excision surgery, where the affected skin is cut away and the wound is stitched and bandaged. The skin will be removed with margins, explains Dr. González. That means that some normal skin will also be removed around the edges to make sure there arent any cancer cells left over.
The removed skin is then looked at under a microscope to ensure that all of the cancer was removed with clean margins, says Dr. González. Because stage 0 cancer has not spread to any other tissues or organs, no further treatment is required.
Symptoms Of Metastatic Melanomas
Melanoma usually is found in early stages, before its become metastatic. If you notice any abnormal moles or discolorations on your skin, dont hesitate to reach out to your doctor. This is especially important for those with many risk factors. Melanoma is more treatable at early stages, so early identification may prevent metastatic melanoma from developing.
Though a primary tumor is typically found, its possible that metastatic melanoma is detected elsewhere in the body and causes symptoms without any signs of a primary tumor.
Metastatic melanoma symptoms and signs may include:
What Exactly Is Melanoma
One of three main types of skin cancer , melanoma occurs when cancer strikes your melanocytesthe pigment-producing cells in your skin that give your skin pigment when you freckle or tan. When these cells turn cancerous, you might see a mole thats large, uneven, or somehow doesnt look like your others.
While fair-skinned folk are most prone, people with darker skin get melanomas too, and are often diagnosed later. Melanoma is less prevalent than its sister skin cancers, but spreads faster to other organs. Deep breath thought: When you catch it early enough, its almost always curable.
Unfortunately, about 5% of melanomas are particularly stealth and often diagnosed at a later stage. Thats because they dont resemble the tell-tale brown or black mole that we associate with the cancer. Amelanotic melanomas lack pigment and can be clear, flesh-tone, or pinkish in color. Theyre sneaky!
What Stage Is My Melanoma
Once a specialist diagnosis you with a type of melanoma, youll be assigned a stage based on how early or advanced the disease. Experts most commonly use the TNM system, which stands for tumor , nodes , and metastasis to help determine your overall number stage.
T: Your doc will determine the thickness of your tumor, also known as the Breslow measurement. The thicker it is, the greater chance of spreading.
T1: greater than 1.0 mm thick
T2: between 1.0 and 2.0 mm thick
T3: between 3.0 and 4.0 mm thick
T4: greater than 4.0 mm thick
Your tumor is also checked for ulceration: a breakdown of the skin over the tumor. Ulcerated melanomas typically have a poorer prognosis.
N: This refers to whether or not the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes .
N1: spread to one node or satellite tumor
N2: spread to two or three nodes or satellites
N3: spread to four or more affected nodes or satellite
M: If the tumor has metastasized, it has spread to other parts of the body, most commonly the liver, brain, lungs, and bones. M0 means no metastasis, and M1 means the tumor has metastasized.
Using the TNM system, doctors then assign the cancer a stage from zero to four.
Stage 0: Very early stage melanoma. This is also known as melanoma in situ . Its contained to the surface layer of the skin.
Stage I: This stage can be broken down by 1A and 1B. Both can be with or without ulceration.
In 1A, the tumor is less than 1.0mm.
In 1B, the tumor is more than 1.0 mm, but less than 2.0 mm.
Read Also: How Serious Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer
Signs Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma most commonly looks like a small open sore. It could be red or pink in fair-skinned people and brown in people of color. It may present as a red patch or bump on the skin. BCC often has a raised or rolled border around the sore and may bleed or crust over. It can present differently in each individual.;
BCC is usually found on areas of the body exposed to the sun like the face, ears, neck, scalp, and shoulders. If you have experienced an open sore that doesn’t heal or a red patch of skin that wont go away, its best to get it checked out. BCC can also look like a shiny, pearl-like growth or a waxy scar with undefined borders. The area may itch, be painful, or have no symptoms at all.;
Types Of Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma skin cancer can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma skin cancer is also called cutaneous melanoma and malignant melanoma of the skin.
There are 4 main types of melanoma skin cancer superficial spreading, nodular, lentigo maligna and acral lentiginous.
Don’t Miss: Can Skin Cancer Look Like Psoriasis
Stop Tumors In Their Tracks
Every melanoma has the potential to become deadly, but the difference between an in situ melanoma and one that has begun to metastasize cannot be overstated. There is a drastic change in the survival rate for the various stages of tumors, highlighting the importance of detecting and treating melanomas before they have a chance to progress. Its impossible to predict exactly how fast a melanoma will move from stage to stage, so you should be taking action as soon as possible.
To be sure youre spotting any potential skin cancers early, The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly skin checks, and scheduling an annual total-body skin-exam with a dermatologist. These skin exams can help you take note of any new or changing lesions that have the potential to be cancerous, and have them biopsied and taken care of before they can escalate.
Trust your instincts and dont take no for an answer, Leland says. Insist that a doctor biopsy anything you believe is suspicious.
The Traditional Clinicopathological Melanoma Classification Scheme Is Important For Early Diagnosis And Melanoma Disease Control
The lynchpins of melanoma disease control are primary prevention, and early detection and treatment. One of the most important benefits of the traditional clinciopathological/histogenetic melanoma classification scheme is that it highlights the diverse clinical and morphological forms of melanoma which, if not known and recognized by clinicians and pathologists, will result in delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of melanoma and contribute to adverse clinical outcomes . For example, nodular melanomas may clinically resemble numerous other tumours such as basal cell carcinoma, dermatofibroma and seborrheoic keratosis and are often not clinically suspected or diagnosed until they are clinically advanced, thick tumours . Amelanotic melanomas are also particularly prone to clinical misdiagnosis. Other subtypes of melanoma that are prone to clinical and pathlogical misdiagnosis include desmoplastic melanoma, naevoid melanoma and acral melanoma.
Don’t Miss: What Do Skin Cancer Sores Look Like
Surgery For Skin Cancer
Small skin cancer lesions may be removed through a variety of techniques, including simple excision , electrodesiccation and curettage , and cryosurgery .
Larger tumors, lesions in high-risk locations, recurrent tumors, and lesions in cosmetically sensitive areas are removed by a technique called Mohs micrographic surgery. For this technique, the surgeon carefully removes tissue, layer by layer, until cancer-free tissue is reached.
Malignant melanoma is treated more aggressively than just surgical removal. To ensure the complete removal of this dangerous malignancy, 1-2;cm of normal-appearing skin surrounding the tumor is also removed. Depending on the thickness of the melanoma, neighboring lymph nodes may also be removed and tested for cancer. The sentinel lymph node biopsy method uses a mildly radioactive substance to identify which lymph nodes are most likely to be affected.
Melanoma: The Deadliest Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, because it tends to spread if its not treated early.
This cancer starts in the melanocytes cells in the epidermis that make pigment.
About 100,350 new melanomas are diagnosed each year.
Risk factors for melanoma include:
- Having fair skin, light eyes, freckles, or red or blond hair
- Having a history of blistering sunburns
- Being exposed to sunlight or tanning beds
- Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation
- Having a family history of melanoma
- Having many moles or unusual-looking moles
- Having a weakened immune system
Melanoma can develop within a mole that you already have, or it can pop up as a new dark spot on your skin.
This cancer can form anywhere on your body, but it most often affects areas that have had sun exposure, such as the back, legs, arms, and face. Melanomas can also develop on the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, or fingernail beds.
Signs to watch out for include:
- A mole that changes in color, size, or how it feels
- A mole that bleeds
You May Like: How Does Immunotherapy Work For Melanoma
Red Flag #: Swollen Lymph Nodes
If melanoma spreads, it often goes to the lymph nodes first, says Melinda L. Yushak, M.D., assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. The cancer cells will first travel to the nodes closest to the original tumor, she says. Lymph nodes are located throughout your entire body, but large clusters are found in the neck, underarms, chest, abdomen, and groin. If the cancer has made its way to the lymph nodes, it usually wont be painful, but theyll feel swollen or even hard to the touch, Dr. Zaba says.
Also Check: What Is The Most Aggressive Skin Cancer
What Is Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes start to grow out of control.
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer, and can then spread to other areas of the body. To learn more about cancer and how it starts and spreads, see What Is Cancer?
Melanoma is much less common than some other types of skin cancers. But melanoma is more dangerous because its much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not caught and treated early.
Also Check: What Type Of Skin Cancer Is Deadly
How Can You Tell If A Spot Is Melanoma See Your Doctor
If you are concerned about a mole or mark on your skin and have not had it examined by a doctor, the only safe thing to do is to make a doctors appointment and have it checked out.
Your doctor may inform you that you should just keep an eye on it and report back if you notice any changes.
In this case, you can ask your doctor whether tracking the lesion and the rest of your skin with photos is something they would recommend.
Mole Mapping Guide
Find out how Mole mapping can be a helpful solution for the early detection of skin cancer.
Symptoms If Cancer Has Spread To The Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes are part of a system of tubes and glands in the body that filters body fluids and fights infection.
The most common symptom if cancer has spread to the lymph nodes is that they feel hard or swollen. Swollen lymph nodes in the neck area can make it hard to swallow.
Cancer cells can also stop lymph fluid from draining away. This might lead to swelling in the neck or face due to fluid buildup in that area. The swelling is called lymphoedema.
Read Also: What Happens If I Have Skin Cancer
Who Is At Risk
Much like with BCC, the more time you spend in the sun, the more at risk you are for developing SCC. About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by sun exposure, and people who have tanned indoors have a 67% higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.
Your risk for SCC is higher if you:
- Have a history of skin cancer
- Have a history of unprotected exposure to the sun or tanning beds
- Have a weakened immune system due to a chronic condition or medication
- Are over age 50
- Have a history of chronic skin infections, precancerous skin growths or human papillomavirus
Diagnosis And Staging What It Means For You
How is melanoma diagnosed?
To diagnose melanoma, a dermatologist biopsies the suspicious tissue and sends it to a lab, where a dermatopathologist determines whether cancer cells are present.
After the disease is diagnosed and the type of melanoma is identified, the next step is for your medical team to identify the stage of the disease. This may require additional tests including imaging such as PET scans, CT scans, MRIs and blood tests.
The stage of melanoma is determined by several factors, including how much the cancer has grown, whether the disease has spread and other considerations. Melanoma staging is complex, but crucial. Knowing the stage helps doctors decide how to best treat your disease and predict your chances of recovery.
Recommended Reading: How To Remove Skin Cancer On Face
I’ve Been Diagnosed With Melanomawhat Happens Next
Doctors use the TNM system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer to begin the staging process. Its a classification based on three key factors:
T stands for the extent of the original;tumor, its thickness or how deep it has grown and whether it has ulcerated.
What Is Breslow depth?
Breslow depth is a measurement from the surface of the skin to the deepest component of the melanoma.
Tumor thickness: Known as Breslow thickness or Breslow depth, this is a significant factor in predicting how far a melanoma has advanced. In general, a thinner Breslow depth indicates a smaller chance that the tumor has spread and a better outlook for treatment success. The thicker the melanoma measures, the greater its chance of spreading.
Tumor ulceration: Ulceration is a breakdown of the skin on top of the melanoma. Melanomas with ulceration are more serious because they have a greater risk of spreading, so they are staged higher than tumors without ulceration.
N indicates whether or not the cancer has already spread to nearby lymph nodes. The N category also includes in-transit tumors that have spread beyond the primary tumor toward the local lymph nodes but have not yet reached the lymph nodes.
M represents spread or metastasis to distant lymph nodes or skin sites and organs such as the lungs or brain.
After TNM categories are identified, the overall stage number is assigned. A lower stage number means less progression of the disease.