Skin Cancer Pictures: Melanoma

A layer of cells in the basal layer of the epidermis, called melanocytes, produces a brown-black skin pigment (melanin) that determines skin and hair color. Melanin also helps protect against the damaging rays of the sun. When cells grow in a controlled manner, the resulting lesion is benign and is commonly referred to as a mole or nevus. Sometimes, however, melanocytes grow out of control and become a cancerous and life-threatening melanoma. If you see a new mole or a mole that changes its appearance, contact your physician immediately.

Superficial Spreading

Young woman with sunburn tanlines

Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma. It is usually flat and irregular in shape and color, with varying shades of black and brown. It may occur at any age or body site and is most common in Caucasians.

Raised, Multi-colored

Melanoma tumors are often colored red, whitish, and blue (to blue-black) all in the same lesion. This lesion has multiple such colors.

Raised, Dark Lesion

Note the presence of multiple colors within this melanoma lesion. This is a common appearance for a melanoma.


Treatment for malignant melanoma depends on many factors, including the patient's general health and whether the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other organs. If caught early, melanoma can be cured. The risk of the cancer coming back increases with the depth of the tumor -- deeper tumors are more likely to come back. If the cancer has spread to lymph nodes, there is a greater chance that the melanoma will return. For melanoma that has spread to other tissues and organs, the cure rate is low.

On the Fingernail

Melanomas beneath the fingernail appear as a black or bluish black discoloration. This is called "acral lentiginous melanoma" and is the least common form of melanoma. It usually occurs on the palms, soles, or under the nails and is more common in African-Americans.

Lentigo Maligna

Lentigo maligna melanoma (sometimes called Hutchinson's freckle) usually occurs in elderly people and is marked by flat, mottled, tan-to-brown freckle-like spots with irregular borders. These lesions often appear on the face or other sun-exposed areas and typically enlarge slowly for 5 to 15 years before becoming invasive.

Clark Level III

The Clark level describes how far a melanoma has penetrated into the skin. This is a level III melanoma in which the cancer involves most of the upper dermis.

Clark Level IV

This is an example of a Clark level IV melanoma in which the cancer has spread from the epidermis through the upper dermis and involves the lower dermis.

On Neck

This melanoma on the neck is variously colored with a darkly pigmented central area and irregular borders. Prognosis in melanoma is best defined by its depth measured after it's surgically removed.