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.