By: CPMC Genetic Counseling Staff
Reviewed by: Dr. Warren R. Heymann, MD, Cooper University Hospital

Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer. Although it is less common than other forms of skin cancer, it is the deadliest form.

Like all cancers, melanoma occurs when a specific group of cells continues to divide out of control instead of going through the normal life cycle. Melanoma occurs in the skin cells that make a substance called melanin. Melanin makes up the pigment or color of skin, hair and eyes.

Although all types of skin cancer can be serious and deadly, melanoma is more likely to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Early detection of melanoma is important; when caught early, melanoma is almost 100% curable.

How Common is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the seventh most common cancer among men and women in the United States1. Melanoma is slightly more common in men than it is in women. The lifetime risk of developing melanoma is about 1 in 41 for men and 1 in 61 for women2.

Non-Hispanic whites have the greatest risk of developing melanoma with a lifetime risk of about 1 in 40. This risk is smaller for Hispanic individuals who have a 1 in 200 risk of developing melanoma and smaller still for African-American individuals whose lifetime risk of developing melanoma is about 1 in 1200. It is important to remember that although the risk is lower for some groups than others, anyone can get melanoma3.

To schedule a free telephone consultation to discuss your CPMC results with a board-certified genetic counselor, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Learn more about Melanoma, from symptoms to understanding your risk, through the links below.

Page References

1. U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2005 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute; 2009.
2. Jemal et al. Cancer statistics, 2008. CA a cancer journal for clinicians; 58(2): 71
3. Seer data from NCI.

Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Learn more about Melanoma [ Learn More › ]

Risk Factors

Both genetic and non-genetic factors play a role in Melanoma [ Learn More › ]

Reduce Your Risk

Risk-reducing behaviors for Melanoma [ Learn More › ]

The CPMC Study

Learn how the CPMC Study identifies your risk for Melanoma [ Learn More › ]