• National Melanoma Society

Facts About Melanoma

Q. What Is Melanoma? A. Melanoma, a very serious skin cancer, is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing tanning cells. Melanomas may suddenly appear without warning, but can also develop from or near a mole. They are found on the upper backs of men and women, or on the legs of women, but can occur anywhere on the body. The overall incidence of melanoma is rising at an alarming rate. In 2005, at current rates, one in 34 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.

Q. Is Melanoma A Serious Disease? A. More than 73% of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. Advanced melanoma spreads to internal organs and may result in death. One person each hour dies from melanoma. If detected in the early stages, melanoma can usually be treated successfully.

Q. How Many People Will Develop Melanoma This Year? A. More than 1 million new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2005. In addition, 7,770 people are expected to die from the disease- 4,910 men, and 2,860 women. Melanoma is the fifth most common cancer in men, and the sixth most common in women.

Q. What Causes Melanoma? A. Excessive exposure to the ultraviolet radiation of the sun is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. People in southern regions, where the sunlight is more intense, are more likely to develop melanoma than those in northern regions. Melanoma has also been linked to excessive sun exposure in the first 10 to 18 years of life. Other possible causes include genetic factors and immune system deficiencies.