Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Font Size

High-Risk Melanomas Often on Head or Neck

Rate of cell growth may be a key to diagnosis and treatment, an expert says

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 20, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The speed at which cancer cells grow may help doctors diagnose and treat the most aggressive melanomas, researchers say.

Using this measure, investigators have found that the deadliest skin cancers occur most often on the head and neck of older men with a long history of sun exposure.

These lesions also grow quickly and are often colorless, the researchers discovered.

Rapid cell growth -- called "high mitotic rate" -- is associated with poorer prognosis in patients with melanoma. For this new study, the Australian research team examined the physical characteristics of melanomas and their rate of cell division to help doctors know how to spot these faster-growing cancers.

Currently, the seriousness of a melanoma is established by its depth. "Now we might add the mitotic rate as part of that prognostic factor," said Dr. Doris Day, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who had no part in the study.

"You would expect that cells that are dividing faster make for more aggressive melanomas that are going to have a worse prognosis," said Day.

That most of these aggressive cancers were found on exposed areas of men with significant sun histories indicates that prolonged exposure to sunlight increases the odds of having more aggressive melanomas, Day noted.

"It makes me worry about all these young women who go to tanning salons, because of their chronic exposure," Day said. "I'm worried that 20 or 30 years from now we are going to see these women developing this worse type of melanoma."

In the United States, about 9,000 people die of melanomas of the skin each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Day said the key to treating melanoma is diagnosing it early.

Perhaps melanomas with high mitotic rates will be treated differently than those with lower rates, she added.

"We may now get more aggressive in the treatment of melanoma that is not deep but has a high mitotic rate. Instead of just cutting it out, we may add in chemotherapy," she said. "So we may change how we evaluate melanomas and how we treat them."

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays