Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. When detected early, the 5-year survival rate is over 95%, as with other skin cancers. However, any delay reduces 5-year survival to 40-50%. Early detection is critical, because this type of skin cancer can quickly spread through the bloodstream to vital organs.
Melanoma develops when a melanocyte (a pigment-producing skin cell) goes rogue and begins rapidly dividing. This division continues unabated, resulting in the destruction of adjacent normal tissue. These cancerous melanocytes can arise from normal skin, but they are more commonly found in dysplastic nevi (also discussed in this section). Melanoma is not painful, which makes it far more insidious and difficult to detect.
We over-emphasize yearly screens (twice yearly if you have a family history of melanoma), because there is no reason while these deadly cancers can’t be identified early.
There are a number of treatment options available, especially if your dermatologist catches a spot in its pre-cancerous stages. Non-melanoma cancers such as squamous cell cancer and basal cell cancers are easier to treat because they tend to remain in one area of your body and respond well to excision, freezing, or other types of immediate removal. On the other hand, melanoma may be more difficult because It’s the kind of cancer that can spread. Melanoma cancer can spread to nearby organs, skin, and lymph nodes. Treatment and your prognosis for a complete recovery are determined by the stage of your cancer when it was diagnosed.