The Stages of Melanoma

Once the type of melanoma has been established, the next step is to classify the disease as to its degree of severity.

Classifications for melanomas are called stages. The stage refers to the thickness, depth of penetration, and the degree to which the melanoma has spread. The staging is used to determine treatment.

Early melanomas (Stages 0 and I) are localized; Stage 0 tumors are in situ, meaning that they are noninvasive and have not penetrated below the surface of the skin, while Stage I tumors have invaded the skin but are small, nonulcerated, and are growing at a slow mitotic rate. Stage II tumors, though localized, are larger (generally over 1 mm. thick) and/or may be ulcerated or have a mitotic rate of greater than than 1/mm2; they are considered intermediate melanomas. More advanced melanomas (Stages III and IV) have spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body. There are also subdivisions within stages.

Guide to Staging

New Melanoma Staging System – By means of an unprecedented cooperative effort among cancer centers around the world, the classification system recommended by the American Joint Commission on Cancer (AJCC) was updated in 2010. New findings about melanoma were incorporated to provide the most accurate diagnosis and prognosis (a forecast of how the disease is likely to progress).

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Lymph Node Involvement

Once a melanoma has progressed beyond Stage II, it has spread beyond the original site. It is most likely to have reached the lymph nodes that are closest to the tumor.

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