What is Melanoma?

Melanoma occurs when abnormal cells in the skin grow in an uncontrolled way.

Your skin is made up of many types of cells. One of these cell types – called melanocytes – give your skin its colour by producing a brown pigment called melanin. Melanoma is cancer that occurs in melanocytes. Read More

Other types of skin cells can also develop into cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma. These are sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancer [link to summary], and are more common than melanoma. Melanoma is more likely to spread to other parts of the body (metastasise) than other types of skin cancer.

Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, but it is more common on the trunk, head or neck in men; and the arms and legs in women.

Melanoma is 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. This is probably related to the high proportion of the population who are fair skinned and are exposed to the sun from early childhood. Hide

  • Melanoma statistics

    Melanoma statistics

    Melanoma is 1 of the 10 most common cancers in both men and women in Australia. Australia and New Zealand have the highest rates of melanoma in the world. 

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  • Know the risk factors

    Know the risk factors

    Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors or whether someone in the family has had cancer.

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  • Melanoma symptoms

    Melanoma symptoms

    Some of the most common symptoms of melanoma are a new spot on the skin, or a spot that is changing in size, shape or colour and moles that have features of the ABCDE rule.

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  • How is melanoma diagnosed?

    How is melanoma diagnosed?

    You might have a number of tests to investigate your symptoms and confirm a diagnosis of melanoma.

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  • Treatment options

    Treatment options

    Treatment and care of people with cancer is usually provided by a team of health professionals, both medical and allied health, called a multidisciplinary team.

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  • Finding support

    Finding support

    You might feel overwhelmed, scared, anxious or upset if you have been diagnosed with cancer – these are all normal feelings.

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  • Research & clinical trials

    Research & clinical trials

    Research is ongoing to find new ways to diagnose and treat different types of cancer.

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  • Health professionals

    Health professionals

    Information and Clinical Guidelines for Health professionals.

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