MelanomaMelanoma Types

Let's Talk About the Types of Melanoma

What it looks like, where it started, whether it's spread: all factors in your specific melanoma. The need-to-knows, here.

    Our Pro PanelMelanoma Types

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in melanoma to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Zelia Correa headshot.

    Zeila Correa, M.D., Ph.D.Professor of Ophthalmology and Ocular Oncologist

    Johns Hopkins Medical Center
    Baltimore, MD
    Sancy Leachman, M.D.

    Sancy Leachman, M.D.Chair of the Department of Dermatology at Oregon Health & Science University and Director of Melanoma Research Program at Knight Cancer Institute

    Portland, OR
    Philip Friedlander, M.D.

    Philip Friedlander, M.D.Assistant Professor of Hematology and Oncology

    Mount Sinai School of Medicine
    New York, NY

    Frequently Asked QuestionsMelanoma Types

    Will my treatment vary by the type of melanoma I have?

    For most melanomas, the treatment is determined by your stage. But in some cases, the type does dictate the course of treatment. For example, treatment for ocular melanoma may include surgery, radiation, lasers, or photodynamic therapy (low level laser and a light-activated medication). Lasers aren’t typically used to treat most skin melanomas. Melanomas on the scalp, head, and neck may be treated more aggressively because there are more blood vessels and lymph nodes in these areas, which means it can spread quickly.

    I hear a lot about melanoma gene mutations. Do they affect the type?

    Any type of melanoma can have a mutated gene in the tumor’s DNA (such as the BRAF mutation, found in about half of all melanomas). If this is present, a different course of treatment—targeted therapy—may be used. Drugs zero in on these specific mutations to fight the cancer. Some experts say as we learn more about melanoma gene mutations, tumors will one day be defined by genetics rather than type.

    Why is staging melanoma important?

    The stage of your melanoma tells a physician a few important things: how early or advanced the disease, how at risk your tumor is for spreading, how to treat your melanoma, and your overall outlook or prognosis.

    Does melanoma size matter?

    Melanomas can be super tiny, but most are larger than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch). However, they’re staged based on their thickness, not their width. Typically, the thinner the melanoma, the better the outcome. Thicker melanomas have a greater chance of spreading. But sometimes a thinner melanoma may have spread to nearby sites or lymph nodes, making it more dangerous than a thicker melanoma that’s only within the layers of the skin.

    Krista Bennett DeMaio

    Krista Bennett DeMaio


    Krista Bennett DeMaio is a health and beauty writer living in Huntington, NY with her husband and three daughters.