Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma skin cancer accounts for only 1% of all skin cancers, but it is more likely to grow and spread. As a result, melanoma is responsible for a large majority of skin cancer deaths, making early detection and treatment very important.

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a cancer that arises from a type of skin cell known as a melanocyte. Melanocytes produce a brown pigment called melanin, which protects the deeper layers of the skin from some of the harmful effects of the sun. When skin is exposed to sunlight, melanocytes produce more melanin, causing the skin to tan or darken.

Generally, melanoma cells continue to produce melanin, so melanoma skin cancers are typically brown or black. However, some melanomas can appear tan, pink or even white because they do not produce melanin.

Risk Factors for Melanoma Skin Cancer

  • Exposure to ultraviolet light.
    Sunlight is the primary source of ultraviolet (UV) rays, which damage the DNA of skin cells. Other sources of UV rays include tanning beds and sun lamps
  • Moles.
    A mole is a non-cancerous pigmented tumor. Most moles never turn into cancer, but people with many moles are more likely to develop melanoma. Atypical moles—moles that are larger than normal or have an abnormal shape or color—are called dysplastic nevi. Dysplastic nevi often run in families. Dysplastic nevus syndrome, also known as familial atypical multiple mole melanoma syndrome (FAMMM), is an inherited condition associated with many dysplastic nevi and at least one close relative who has had melanoma. People with dysplastic nevus syndrome have a very high lifetime risk of melanoma. Congenital melanocytic nevi are moles that are present at birth. Lifetime risk of melanoma developing in a congenital melanocytic nevus is estimated to be 0-10%, and risk increases as the size of the mole increases.
  • Fair skin, light hair and freckles.
  • Family history of melanoma.
    Risk is higher in people who have one or more first-degree relatives with melanoma.
  • Personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers.
    People who have had melanoma are at higher risk of getting melanoma again.
  • Age.
    While melanoma is more likely to occur in older people, it is also one of the most common cancer in people under age 30.
  • Having a weakened immune system.
    People with weakened immune systems (from certain diseases or medical treatments) are more likely to develop melanoma and other skin cancers.
  • Xeroderma pigmentosum.
    This rare inherited condition affects the ability of skin cells to repair damage to their DNA.

Skin Cancer Screenings

The Melanoma Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center regularly holds skin screening programs and offers a range of services to help you learn how to reduce your cancer risk or to detect skin cancer at its most treatable stage. To find out about our next scheduled screening or to learn more about our program, please call Moira Davis, our Nurse Navigator, at (973) 322-6506.

The Melanoma Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center

The Melanoma Center offers a multidisciplinary approach to caring for individuals with melanoma. Our team consists of dermatologists, surgical oncologists, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists, as well as a dedicated nurse navigator to assist with appointment scheduling and coordination. We are focused on providing patients with high-quality screening and treatment, as well as access to clinical trials.