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Melanoma: Diagnosis

The doctor will remove (excise) or biopsy (take a small sample) of the suspicious looking mole and 2mm of normal looking skin under a local anaesthetic, an injection used to numb the area, and close the wound with sutures. The mole that has been removed will be examined by a pathologist (a specialist that can determine if it is cancerous). If it is found to be a melanoma you may need further surgery and/or tests.

There are four main types of skin melanoma:


  • Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common. Melanoma cells grow slowly at first and spreads across the surface of the skin.

  • Nodular melanoma is the second most common type and can grow more quickly than other melanomas. They are usually elevated, firm and growing.

  • Lentigo maligna melanoma develops from a slow-growing pre-cancerous condition called lentigo maligna or Hutchison’s freckle. It is usually found in older people in areas of skin that have had a lot of exposure to the sun over many years, which looks like a stain on the skin.

  • Acral melanoma is the rarest type and is more common is people with black or brown skin and isn’t thought to be related to sun exposure. It is usually found on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under fingernails or toenails.  

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