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Definition of melanoma: A form of cancer that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin). It may begin in a mole (skin melanoma), but can also begin in other pigmented tissues, such as in the eye or in the intestines.

Estimated new cases of melanoma in the United States in 2016: 76,380

Melanoma of the skin, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is the fifth most common type of new cancer diagnosis in American men and the seventh most common type in American women. The incidence rates for invasive melanoma are highest in whites, who have a much higher risk of developing melanoma than African Americans. Among people younger than  45 years, incidence rates are higher in women than in men. By age 60 years, melanoma incidence rates in men are more than twice those of women; by age 80 years, men are nearly three times more likely to develop melanoma than women.

The presence of certain genetic mutations for melanoma include having fair skin that burns easily, high lifetime exposure to natural or artificial sunlight, a history of blistering sunburns (particularly at a young age), many common moles, a personal or family history of dysplastic nevi or melanoma, and being white. Avoiding sun exposure and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen lotion that filters both UVB and UVA radiation may reduce the risk of melanoma. Visual skin examinations are sometimes used to screen for melanoma. Standard treatments for melanoma include surgerychemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapytargeted therapy, andbiological therapy.

The following stages are used for melanoma:

Stage 0 (Melanoma In Situ)

In stage 0, abnormal melanocytes are found in the epidermis. These abnormal melanocytes may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called melanoma in situ.

Stage I

In stage I, cancer has formed. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into stages IIA, IIB, and IIC.

Stage III

In stage III, the tumor may be any thickness, with or without ulceration. One or more of the following is true:

  • Cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes.
  • Lymph nodes may be joined together (matted).
  • Cancer may be in a lymph vessel between the primary tumor and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Very small tumors may be found on or under the skin, not more than 2 centimeters away from where the cancer first started.

Stage IV

In stage IV, the cancer has spread to other places in the body, such as the lung, liver, brain, bone,soft tissue, or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Cancer may have spread to places in the skin far away from where it first started.

All information was taken from the NCI (National Cancer Institute)