Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, often caused by damage to skin cells from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from excessive exposure to the sun or tanning beds. If recognized and treated early, melanoma is often curable, but if left untreated, it can spread to many other parts of the body, where it can be fatal. It is less common but deadlier than non-Melanomas.

Melanoma represents nearly 5% of all new cancer cases diagnosed in a year. About 84% of new skin melanoma diagnoses are confined to a primary site, providing chances for earlier intervention and long-term survival. Despite public awareness of the dangers of UV exposure, new skin melanoma diagnoses have been on the rise every year for the past 10 years.

Symptoms of moles that are suspicious for melanoma include those with asymmetrical shapes, uneven borders, varying colors, larger diameter, or those that have changed in size, shape, color, or any other trait, or those that begin to itch, bleed, or crust over.


People with a family history of melanoma, fair skin, a large number of moles, or the genetic mutations BRAF or p53 may be at increased risk for melanoma. Blistering sunburns in childhood or excessive UV exposure, weakened immune systems.

Surgical removal of the affected area is the primary treatment for melanoma skin cancers. Lymph node biopsy ore removal can help assess the presence of melanoma that has spread. Surgical patients at risk for recurrence of melanoma may benefit from the addition of high-dose interferon alpha-2b, and similar therapies are being explored in clinical trials. If melanoma has spread to distant sites, it is not often curable, but systemic treatment options such as immunotherapy and genetic inhibitors are showing promise.

One 2015 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute is waking up specialists. It shows that caffeinated coffee may reduce the risk of developing malignant melanoma; adults who drank 4 cups of coffee or more per day had a 20% lower risk of being diagnosed with the disease.

Find support, information, and an online community that can help patients and caregivers understand melanoma from diagnosis to the days after treatment at The Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF).