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Types

Find out about the different types of melanoma skin cancer.

There are different types of melanoma. They are usually treated in the same way.

Superficial spreading melanoma

Superficial spreading melanoma tends to start growing outwards rather than downwards into the skin. It is not usually at risk of spreading to other parts of the body until it begins to grow downwards into the deeper layers of skin and beyond.

It is the most common type of melanoma. It is found most often in middle aged people.

Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma tends to grow downwards, deeper into the skin, quite quickly if not removed. There is often a raised area on the skin surface with this type of melanoma. Nodular melanoma is often very dark brownish black, or black, in colour. It may not necessarily develop from a mole which was already there.

It is found most often in middle aged people and in parts of the body only exposed to the sun occasionally. So it is most often found on the chest or back.

Lentigo maligna melanoma

These melanomas develop from very slow growing pigmented areas of skin called lentigo maligna or Hutchinson's melanotic freckle. The lentigo maligna is flat and grows outwards in the surface layers of the skin. So it may gradually get bigger over several years and may change shape. If it becomes a lentigo maligna melanoma, it starts to grow down into the deeper layers of the skin and may form lumps (nodules).

Lentigo maligna and lentigo maligna melanoma are most common in elderly people. They appear in areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, so are most common on the face. They are also more common in people who have spent a lot of time outdoors.

Acral lentiginous melanoma

Acral lentiginous melanoma is most commonly found on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet or around the big toenail. It can also grow under the nails. It is much more common on the feet than on the hands.

This type is rare. But it is the most common type of melanoma in dark skinned people.

Amelanotic melanoma

Amelanotic means without melanin. Melanomas tend to be dark in colour, but amelanotic melanomas usually have no, or very little colour. Occasionally they are pink or red, or have light brown or grey around the edges. Other types of melanoma such as acral lentiginous can lack colour and are amelanotic melanomas.

This type of melanoma is rare. They are often difficult to diagnose because of their lack of colour and may be mistaken for other conditions of the skin.

Other types of melanoma

Melanoma of the skin is also called cutaneous melanoma. Cutaneous is another word for the skin.

Although rare, melanoma can occur anywhere in the body, including in the internal organs. Possible places where melanoma can start include the

  • eye
  • vulva
  • vagina
  • rectum
Last reviewed: 
21 Oct 2015
  • Cancer and its Management (7th edition)
    J. Tobias and D.Hochhauser
    Wiley Blackwell (2010)

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