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What You Need To Know About™


    Posted: 03/31/2003


What Is Melanoma?

The Skin

Melanocytes and Moles

Understanding Cancer


Melanoma: Who’s at Risk?

Signs and Symptoms

Dysplastic Nevi



Stages of Melanoma


Getting a Second Opinion

Preparing for Treatment

Methods of Treatment



Biological Therapy

Radiation Therapy

Treatment Choices by Stage

Recurrent Melanoma

Side Effects of Treatment



Biological Therapy

Radiation Therapy


Followup Care

Support for People with Melanoma

The Promise of Cancer Research

How To Do a Skin Self-Exam

National Cancer Institute Booklets

National Cancer Institute Information Resources

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Melanoma* is the most serious type of cancer of the skin. Each year in the United States, more than 53,600 people learn they have melanoma.

In some parts of the world, especially among Western countries, melanoma is becoming more common every year. In the United States, for example, the percentage of people who develop melanoma has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has written this booklet (NIH Publication No. 02-1563) to help people with melanoma and their families and friends better understand this disease. We hope others will read it as well to learn more about melanoma. This booklet discusses risks and prevention, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and followup care. It also has information about resources and sources of support to help patients cope with melanoma.

This booklet is about melanoma of the skin. Melanomas arising in areas other than the skin (such as intraocular melanoma, which is melanoma arising in the eye) are not discussed here. Also, two more common and less serious types of skin cancer (squamous cell and basal cell cancer) are discussed in another NCI booklet, What You Need To Know About™ Skin Cancer. For other sources of information on intraocular melanoma and skin cancer, see the “National Cancer Institute Information Resources.”

Research continues to teach us more about melanoma. Scientists are learning more about its causes. They are exploring new ways to prevent, find, and treat this disease. Because of research, people with melanoma can look forward to a better quality of life and less chance of dying from this disease.

Information specialists at the NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER can answer questions about melanoma and can send NCI materials. They can also send up-to-date treatment information from NCI’s PDQ® database. In addition, many NCI publications and fact sheets are on the Internet at People in the United States and its territories may use this Web site to order publications. This Web site also explains how people outside the United States can mail or fax their requests for NCI publications.

*Words that may be new to readers appear in italics. The Dictionary section explains these terms. Some words in the Dictionary have a "sounds-like" spelling to show how to pronounce them.

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