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What is Nodular Melanoma?

By Christy Bowles
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Nodular melanoma is a type of melanoma, or skin cancer, that often appears as a dark bumpy growth that occurs on skin that has been routinely been exposed to sunburn. The most common sites of nodular melanomas are the upper body and the legs. A nodular melanoma growth is usually irregular in shape and has ragged edges. They often grow to be thicker than other melanomas, so they are more likely to spread into the lymph system or blood, causing cancer cells to spread throughout the body.

According to experts, nodular melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, because it begins as an invasive growth, meaning it starts as a growth that has penetrated the deeper layers of the skin into the subcutaneous fat. The majority of melanomas are black or brown in color, but they can also be blue, red, white, or gray. Nodular melanomas are found in 10% to 15% of melanoma cases. These growths are typically asymmetrical in shape with an uneven boarder and a larger diameter than other moles or skin growths.

The prognosis for nodular melanoma is more serious than other types of melanoma because of the way the nodular melanoma grows. These melanoma are more likely to penetrate the superficial layers of skin and gown deeper into the body. As a result there is a higher chance that the cancerous cells from the melanoma will grow and spread into the patient's lymph system or blood stream, possibly allowing the cancer to spread to more distant areas of the body. The early diagnosis and proper removal and treatment of a nodular melanoma is critical for successful treatment because faster identification and removal reduces the risk of cancer spreading through the body.

Once a nodular melanoma has been identified, it is often treated with surgical removal of the growth. A surgeon will usually cut relatively deep into the skin, down into the fat layer below the skin. Once the nodular melanoma is removed, doctors will usually perform a lymph node biopsy on nearby lymph nodes to see if the cancerous cells from the melanoma have spread to the patient's lymph system. If cancer is found in the lymph nodes, they will usually be removed surgically and a patient will undergo chemotherapy treatment to treat the cancer of the lymph nodes.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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