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What Is Malignant Melanoma?

Malignant melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. The tumor originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment that colors our skin, hair, and eyes. The majority of malignant melanomas are black or brown with irregular borders that can become crusted and bleed.

Our Algorithm + Melanoma FAQs

A is for Analysis

At Academic Alliance in Dermatology, we analyze the whole patient based on history and detailed family traits. Ideally, we do a 4 generation-tall family tree focusing on all potential cancers, not just melanoma.

B is for Blade Biopsy

We sample suspicious moles to establish the degree of atypia, risk profile and phenotypes. Sometimes we biopsy parents instead of their kids (Biopsy by Proxy).

C is for Color

When examining your skin for melanoma, we don’t just look for black-colored moles, but we also search for any slight discolorations that appear red, slate blue, shiny pink, ash grey and white.

D is for Dermoscopy and Distribution: not just Diameter

The skin has invisible zebra stripes (that is why you get shingles). At Academic Alliance in Dermatology, we have established that certain body stripes, called dermatomes (skin segments) are more prone to develop melanomas. This cutting-edge discovery by Academic Alliance in Dermatology was presented at the World Congress of Dermatology in Milan, Italy, in June 2019 and at the Pediatric Dermatology Research Association meeting in Chicago.

E is for Evolution and Embryology: not just Elevation

Although believed to be caused by the sun, the left side of the body is more prone to melanoma due to embryologic considerations and maldevelopment.

F is for Funny-looking moles and Family

We are one of the few organizations globally whose physicians are able to study up to four generations of a patient’s family members due to their specialized knowledge of genetics, embryology, neonatology, pediatrics and dermatology.

G is for Generations and Genetics

Recognizing that certain genes are responsible for several cancers in different organs, we study information about the genetics of the family across multiple generations and organs.

H is for History

History includes personal, family, professional/occupational, surgical, environmental and social.

I is for Instinct

The patient’s instincts, the doctor’s intuition, and family insight are all critical factors when reaching a diagnosis. Across the four decades our physicians have spent in extensive training and practical experience, they have honed their ability to look and listen.

If malignant melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is nearly 100% curable. Untreated, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.

Malignant melanoma may affect anyone at any age. All individuals exposed to sunlight are at risk of developing malignant melanoma, yet fair-skinned people, after years of sun exposure, individuals with a family history of melanoma, and individuals who are immunosuppressed are at a higher risk.

Our dermatologists officially diagnose and treat malignant melanoma after assessing tissue from a skin biopsy. Treatment options depend on the location and depth of the tumor as well as the patient’s general health.


Treatment options offered include surgical excision, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and (if necessary) lymph nodes may be removed.


Mohs surgery is often considered the gold standard for treating melanomas. This procedure is a specialized type of surgery that removes layers of cancerous skin one at a time and is examined under the microscope until no further signs of cancer are detected.

  • Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer.
  • More than 7,000 Americans will die from Melanoma in 2019.
  • In 2019, over 192,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with Melanoma.
  • Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-30 years old and the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 30-35.
  • Nearly 90% of Melanoma are thought to be caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight.
    Today, there are nearly 1 million people living with Melanoma.

Book Skin Cancer Screening

Annual skin screenings are the key to maintaining your health. Choose Academic Alliance In Dermatology to book your annual skin screening and receive an unparalleled approach to Melanoma diagnosis and overall skin health. Find one of our 18 locations near you and call the office directly.

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