What is melanoma skin cancer?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It starts in cells in the skin called melanocytes.

Symptoms of melanoma skin cancer

Symptoms of melanoma include a change to a mole, freckle or normal patch of skin. Read more about when to go and see your GP. 

Pictures of abnormal moles, melanoma and skin changes

See pictures of abnormal moles that might be developing into melanoma skin cancer and also pictures of melanomas.

Risks and causes of melanoma skin cancer

Your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer depends on many things. In the UK, too much ultraviolet radiation causes around 85 out of 100 melanomas (around 85%). Melanoma skin cancer is the 5th most common cancer overall in the UK.

Getting diagnosed

You usually start by seeing your GP and they might refer you to a specialist for more tests. Find out more about tests and screening for melanoma. 

Stages and types

The stage of a melanoma tells you how deeply it has grown into the skin, and how far it has spread.


Your treatment depends on where your melanoma is, how deep it is, whether it has spread anywhere else in your body and your general health. Find out about the different treatments for melanoma.


Survival depends on the stage of your melanoma when you are diagnosed. 

Living with melanoma

Getting practical and emotional support can help you cope with a diagnosis of cancer, life during treatment and life after cancer.

Advanced melanoma

Advanced melanoma means your melanoma has spread from where it started to another part of the body. Find out where melanoma can spread to and about how treatment can control symptoms.

Research and clinical trials

Research is looking into the causes and diagnosis of melanoma, and whether new treatments are safe and better than those currently available.

Last reviewed: 
21 May 2020
Next review due: 
21 May 2023

Page Credits: 

This section has been written, reviewed and updated by Cancer Research UK’s Patient Information Web Team. Thanks to the expert medical professionals and people affected by cancer who have helped to review this information.

  • Mr Myles Smith, Consultant Surgical Oncologist and General Surgeon
  • Dr Victoria Akhras, Consultant Dermatologist
  • our lay reviewers