Melanoma is a potentially serious type of skin cancer that can occur on ANY part of the body, not just on sun-exposed skin. It involves the abnormal growth of melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, of the epidermis (top layer of skin).
The main risk factors for developing the most common type of melanoma (superficial spreading type, 75%) are: personal or family history of a melanoma, multiple moles (usually >50), history of a previous Basal Cell or Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a history of multiple (>5) abnormal moles in the past, or white/fair skin that burns easily.
The types of melanoma are in situ ( if the tumor is confined to the epidermis), invasive (if the tumor has spread to the deeper layer of skin, the dermis), or metastatic (if the tumor has spread to other parts of the body). When melanomas are “in situ” or superficial, we remove them with a simple in-office procedure, a surgical excision, with appropriate margins. When we catch a melanoma that is beyond stage 0 in situ, we work closely with our colleagues at the Hoag Melanoma Center.