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    What Happens

    Melanoma develops when normal pigment-producing skin cells called melanocytes become abnormal, grow uncontrollably, and invade surrounding tissues. Usually only one melanoma develops at a time. Melanomas can begin in an existing mole or other skin growth, but most start in unmarked skin.

    When melanoma is found early, it can often be cured by surgery to remove it. But after melanoma spreads, it is harder to cure.

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    The Sun and Skin Cancer

    Spending too much time in the sun gives you wrinkles and makes you more likely to get skin cancer. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun (all year long, and in any weather) or tanning beds is linked to all of them. Almost all skin cancers -- 95% -- are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Also called non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early. Melanoma is the most...

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    Experts talk about prognosis in terms of "5-year survival rates." The 5-year survival rate means the percentage of people who are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was discovered. Remember that these are only averages. Everyone's case is different, and these numbers don't necessarily show what will happen to you. The estimated 5-year survival rate for melanoma is:2

    • 98% if cancer is found early and treated before it has spread.
    • 62% if the cancer has spread to close-by tissue.
    • 15% if the cancer has spread farther away, such as to the liver, brain, or bones.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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