What Are the Types of Melanoma?

A form of cancer called melanoma typically begins in the skin, however, it can also start in other places. Melanoma comes in a variety of forms, each with unique characteristics and prognoses.

Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops when melanocytes, which are pigmented cells, start to grow and divide uncontrollably. Although 90% of melanomas begin in the skin, some might also begin in the eyes or mucous membranes.

To find out more about the various forms of melanoma, continue reading.

Superficial spreading melanoma

The most prevalent kind of cutaneous (skin) melanoma is superficial spreading melanoma (SSM). Roughly 70% of cases of cutaneous melanoma are diagnosed with it.

SSM begins as a new lesion or as an old mole on the surface of your skin. It begins on the outside and gradually penetrates deeper layers of the skin. Although it can start anywhere, like all melanomas, it typically appears on a man's torso and a woman's legs.

Usually flat or slightly elevated, SSM is a place on your skin that may have:
  • an asymmetrical shape
  • an irregular or smudgy border
  • varying colour, which could be red, pink, grey, blue, dark brown, or black.
  • a distinct look from other moles on your body
  • discernible alterations over time, like expanding in size
Among the risk factors for SSM are:
  • increasing age
  • light skin tone
  • UV radiation exposure, particularly if there has been a history of severe sunburns
  • Melanoma in oneself or one's family history
  • the existence of numerous abnormal moles or numerous moles

Nodular melanoma

Approximately 20% of all cutaneous melanomas are nodular melanomas (NM). Usually, it begins as a nodule, or elevated bump, on your skin.

NM may be red, brown, or black. On the other hand, it can frequently resemble the colour of your skin naturally and be more difficult to distinguish. Usually, it's on your neck or head.

NM is more prevalent in elderly persons and men. More deeply into your skin than certain other forms of melanoma, it grows more quickly. As a result, a later diagnosis is frequently made, which lowers the prognosis.

Lentigo maligna melanoma

Of all cutaneous melanomas, 4–15% are lentigo maligna melanomas (LMM). It begins as a precancerous condition affecting the epidermis and progresses to deeper layers of skin to become LMM.

LMM usually strikes older persons and appears first on sun-exposed areas, especially the head and neck. Because of this, lifetime sun exposure is a significant risk factor. Although LMM can affect anyone, women are more likely to have it.

This kind of melanoma initially appears as an irregularly shaped tan or brown patch. Its prognosis is generally better since it grows more slowly than other types of melanoma.

Acral lentiginous melanoma

ALM, or acro lentiginous melanoma, initially appears on parts of the body that are rarely exposed to the sun, like:
  • the digits on your hands
  • the soles of your shoes
  • beneath your toenails or fingernails
Experts disagree that exposure to the sun causes ALM. It is distinct from many other forms of melanoma in this regard.

1–3% of cutaneous melanomas are ALMs, which are extremely uncommon. Nevertheless, it can swiftly penetrate deeper skin layers and is highly aggressive.

A significant percentage of melanomas diagnosed in people with skin of colour also correspond to this form of melanoma. In fact, in Asian and African American individuals, it accounts for 40–60% of melanoma diagnoses.

Usually, ALM has a light to dark brown hue. It can develop an ulcer as it goes along.

Rare cutaneous melanomas

Rarer varieties of cutaneous melanoma are covered in the ensuing sections.

Desmoplastic melanoma

Less than 4% of cutaneous melanomas are desmoplastic melanomas. It may resemble different forms of skin lesions, both malignant and noncancerous, in addition to scar tissue. Of these melanomas, about 60% are unpigmented.

It frequently appears on skin that has received a lot of sun exposure, particularly on the head and neck. The arms, legs, and chest are other typical sites. It's challenging to identify because this variety can lack pigment and resemble other skin lesions.

Amelanotic melanoma

Amelanotic melanoma lacks pigment, just like desmoplastic melanoma. It can therefore be challenging to diagnose in its early stages, which can result in a less-than-ideal prognosis.

2–8% of all cutaneous melanomas are this form of melanoma. Individuals with this kind of melanoma are typically older. It usually appears on parts of the body exposed to the sun, like the head, neck, chest, and legs.

Nevoid melanoma

Less than 1% of melanomas are nevinoid melanomas, which are extremely uncommon. Because they frequently mimic benign moles, they can be challenging to diagnose.

Spitzoid melanoma

A benign skin lesion known as a spitz nevus is comparable to a kind of melanoma known as a spitzoid melanoma. Less than 2% of cutaneous melanomas are of this type.

Usually, these melanomas show up on the head, arms, or legs. They are typically spherical and uniformly coloured in blue, black, or brown. They never spread far; instead, they grow swiftly and frequently reach local lymph nodes.

Eye melanoma

Eye cancers are uncommon. According to the American Cancer Society, 3,320 new instances of eye cancer—primarily ocular melanoma—will be diagnosed by American physicians in 2024.

The uvea, or central layer of the eye, is where eye melanoma usually begins. Rarely, it may appear in the tissue covering the white of the eye, called the conjunctiva. Eye melanoma symptoms can include:
  • a dark spot on your eye
  • blurry vision
  • a visual gap in your field of view
  • a sensation similar to seeing flashing lights
  • a discernible shift in your pupil's form
  • sun sensitivity
One of the risk factors for ocular melanoma is sun exposure. Additional risk variables consist of:
  • lighter-coloured eyes or skin tone
  • an already-present mole on your eye
  • older age

Mucosal melanoma

Mucous membranes like yours are where mucosal melanoma first appears.
  • sinuses
  • mouth
  • urinary tract
  • rectum and anus
  • throat
  • genitals
Symptoms differ according to the place. For instance, it can result in chronic runny nose, nosebleeds, or nasal blockage in your sinuses. It may cause discomfort, bleeding, and constipation in your rectum or anus.

Mucosal melanoma represents less than 2% of all melanomas and is an extremely uncommon kind of melanoma. It is, nevertheless, an aggressive type with a pessimistic attitude.

Unlike many other melanomas, mucosal melanoma is not associated with UV radiation exposure. It is unclear what risk factors exist for this particular kind of melanoma.

Melanoma of unknown primary

The majority of melanomas have a recognised cancerous origin place, such as your skin or eye. 3.2% of melanomas, on the other hand, are found at a secondary site that cannot be identified. Melanoma of unknown primary (MUP) is the term for this.

The most typical location for MUP is in lymph nodes. Additionally, internal organs like your kidneys or intestines as well as subcutaneous tissue may contain it. The location of the damage can alter the MUP symptoms.

In general, melanomas of the same stage with identified primary sites are likely to have a worse prognosis than MUP.

How is melanoma treated?

Numerous variables can affect how melanoma is treated, such as:
  • the kind of melanoma
  • the melanoma stage that you have
  • the tumor's location
  • the molecular characteristics of your melanoma, including any genetic mutations that may have occurred
  • your general health and age
Surgery to remove the malignancy is a common part of melanoma treatment. Additional possible therapies consist of:
  • chemotherapy
  • immunotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • targeted therapy


What is type 4 melanoma cancer?

When melanoma reaches stage IV metastatic status, it has metastasized to other parts of the body, most frequently the brain, lungs, liver, bones, and gastrointestinal tract. Your doctor will assess two parameters to assess the degree of progression of stage IV melanoma. One is the position of the tumours that are far away.

Are all melanomas cancerous?

One type of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanocytes, which are skin cells, are the source of it. Skin cancer can be classified into two main categories: non-melanoma (which includes rare kinds such as basal cell and squamous cell) and melanoma (which is the most common type).

Is melanoma always dark?

Although melanoma typically has brown, black, or tan tones, some can be red or pink, like this one.


The majority of melanomas are cutaneous melanomas. Rarely, melanoma can develop in the mucous membranes around your eyes, or it can spread to other locations without a recognised original site.

Each form of melanoma may have different symptoms, treatments, and prognoses. See a doctor if you have any concerned symptoms, especially suspicious skin lesions, as early detection improves the prognosis for most malignancies.

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