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Overview of melanoma

Melanoma checkMelanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the cells that give your skin colour, known as melanocytes. These cells clump together to make the brown spots we commonly call moles.

Melanoma can develop in an existing mole or can start as a new spot.

Most melanoma are caused by ultra-violet (UV) light from the sun or from other sources such as sunbeds.

New Zealand has a higher rate of melanoma than most other countries. It can happen in adults of any age, but is rare in children.

Melanoma is serious. If it's not treated early, it can spread around the body and become life-threatening.

Risk of melanoma

You could be more likely to get melanoma if you have:

Diagnosing melanoma

Melanoma is usually found when you check your own skin for new or changing moles, freckles or spots. Use the ABCDEs of melanoma as a useful guideline for the changes to look for.

Your GP will check your skin for any concerning spots. They may use a magnifying instrument known as a dermatoscope.

If concerned, they will take a sample of the spot or remove all of it so it can be looked at under a microscope.

Read more about diagnosing melanoma.

Treating melanoma

Removing the melanoma is the first step.

Depending on how severe the melanoma is you may need further surgery.

If your melanoma has spread you may need drug treatment.

Read more about treating melanoma.

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On the next page: Diagnosing melanoma

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created May 2021.

Page reference: 851315

Review key: HIMEL-15455