Kat Wetjen


Melanocytes are found in the epidermis. Melanocytes are responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When the skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes produce more pigment and start to darken or tan your skin.
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Photos taken from

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is formed when cancerous cells form in the melanocytes.

Stage 0

The abnormal melanocytes are found in the epidermis. These cells become abnormal during mitosis because their DNA instructions are "different." The abnormal cells may become cancerous and spread into normal tissue.

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Stage 1 (cells)

The cancerous melanocytes start to spread further into your skin and deeper into your dermis layer.
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Stage 2 (Tissues)

The cancerous cells continue to spread farther down into your skin and start to effect tissues.
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Stage 3 (Organs)

The cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes. The cancer cells start to take over the immune cells because they attack the lymph vessels.
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Stage 4 (Body System)

The tumor has spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, liver, brain, bone or other soft tissue.
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Risk Factors

  • Fair complexion (fair skin that freckles/burns easily, does not tan, tans poorly)
  • Brown or blue eyes
  • Exposure to natural or UV rays
  • History of many blistering sunburns
  • Several large or many small moles
  • Family history of unusual moles
  • Family or personal history

How To Diagnose Melanoma

  • Biopsy
  • Skin exam


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Staging- process of finding if cancer has spread within skin or other parts of body

  • Physical exam and history
  • Wide local excision
  • Lymph node mapping
  • Chest x-ray
  • CT scan, MRI, PET scan
  • Laboratory tests
  • Blood chemistry studies


Surgery- remove the tissue and surrounding areas

Chemotherapy- drugs to stop spread by killing cancerous cells or stopping them from dividing

Radiation therapy- high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing

Biologic therapy- patient's immune system to fight

Targeted therapy- drugs or other substances to identify and attack the specific cancer cells without harming the others

Recurrent Melanoma

This occurs when the melanoma comes back after it has been treated. The cancer can come back where it first originated or in different areas.


  • 2005-2009 median age for patients was 61 years of age
  • 1.99% of men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma (1 in 50)
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National Cancer Institute . (n.d.). Melanoma . In National Cancer Institute. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from