Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and the sixth most common cancer in North America .
Here we will review the pathologic features of cutaneous melanoma, including its growth phases, major histologic subtypes, and rare variants. Other aspects of melanoma, including the pathologic approach to evaluation of locoregional lymph nodes are discussed separately:
The prognosis for patients with melanoma is primarily determined by the thickness of the primary tumor, ulceration, mitotic rate, and presence and extent of metastatic disease. (See "Tumor node metastasis (TNM) staging system and other prognostic factors in cutaneous melanoma".)
In contrast to other skin cancers (eg, squamous and basal cell carcinomas), melanomas are aggressive neoplasms that may spread in an unpredictable manner to involve virtually any organ of the body. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to minimizing morbidity and mortality. (See "Epidemiology and clinical features of basal cell carcinoma" and "Epidemiology and risk factors for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma" and "Clinical features and diagnosis of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)".)