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How fast do melanomas grow?

I have been diagnosed with a melanoma. How fast do they grow?

This page is about how fast melanomas grow. Melanomas, like other cancers, grow at different rates. Some types of melanoma grow very slowly and may spread out into surrounding skin for months or years (the horizontal growth phase) before they start to grow down into the deeper layers of skin (the vertical growth phase). Other types of melanoma grow down into the deeper layers of skin more quickly.

The type of melanoma you have may give an idea of how quickly it might grow. Some types of melanoma grow more quickly than others. The main thing your doctor will want to find out about your melanoma is whether it has spread into the deeper layers of skin. This is called the stage of your melanoma. Knowing the stage helps your doctor decide whether you need any further treatment after having the melanoma removed. 

Staging can also help to predict the risk of your melanoma coming back (recurring). Generally speaking, if your melanoma is only in the cells in the top layer of the skin there is a low risk of it coming back. But if it has spread deeper, into the fatty layer of the skin, the risk of it coming back is higher.

Remember, this is only a guide and doctor can’t be absolutely certain of how any cancer will behave. But your doctor will be able to tell you more about your own situation and why they recommend a particular type of treatment.

To find out more about melanomas, look at the melanoma skin cancer section.

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Updated: 24 January 2014