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How does melanoma affect the body?

Jill Onesti, MD
Surgical Oncology
Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the skin. If caught at an early stage, removal of the melanoma can give you a high chance of a cure. As the melanoma grows deeper in the skin, however, it becomes more aggressive and may spread to other regions of your body. The first place of spread is usually the lymph nodes that drain that particular area. For example, if a melanoma is noticed in your arm, the lymph nodes that drain your arm are located in your axilla (underarm). If the melanoma spreads beyond the lymph nodes, it often becomes aggressive and can go to many other places in the body, including your brain, your lungs, your intestines and your liver.
 
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Melanoma is caused by the overproduction of certain skin cells called melanocytes. This cell overgrowth usually starts on an existing mole on the skin or as a new skin growth. Generally, these growths are found in areas of skin that are exposed to sunlight, although they may be found in other parts of the body, including internal mucous membranes like those found in the esophagus and urinary tract. If left untreated, melanoma can spread rapidly to other parts of the body, so it is considered one of the more serious types of skin cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.