Melanoma Treatment

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A routine visit to the dermatologist may have uncovered melanoma. This is a serious form of skin cancer. But it's important to know that melanoma treatment has come far. And at UVA Health, you'll find experts who focus their careers on helping people fight this type of cancer.

Melanoma Treatment at UVA Health

Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body. So it's important to get treatment as quickly as possible. At UVA Health, you'll find an outstanding melanoma treatment program. Experts in surgery, medical oncology, and pathology come together to offer the best melanoma treatment.

Melanoma treatment has changed dramatically in the last decade. We now commonly use immunotherapy for advanced melanoma.

Immunotherapy is different than chemotherapy. It is an IV medication that boosts your own immune system to fight the melanoma.

Our cancer surgeons sometimes team up with plastic surgeons. Why? To make sure we remove all the cancer. And to make sure your appearance or function remain intact.

What Is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a cancer of a cell in the skin called the melanocyte. When that cell mutates and starts growing without regulation, it can become invasive. Some types of melanoma can spread beyond the skin.

Melanoma is most common in the skin. But it may also arise in other areas. These include the eyes, digestive system, nail beds, or lymph nodes.

Melanoma Clinical Trials

We are always looking for better melanoma treatments. We do this with clinical trials.

See if you qualify for our open clinical trials for melanoma.

      Cancer of the Skin

      Surgical oncologist Lynn Dengel, MD walks us through melanoma risk factors and treatment. View transcript.


      Melanomas are not usually painful. They often have no symptoms at first.

      The first sign is often a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole. Melanoma may also appear as a new, dark, discolored, or abnormal mole. Remember that most people have moles. Almost all moles are benign.

      A mole may be a melanoma if you notice any of these signs:

      • Uneven shape
      • Ragged edges
      • Uneven color
      • Changes
      • Large size

      Learn more about how to prevent skin cancer and screening.

      Who's At Risk for Melanoma?

      The most common risk factor for melanoma is exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The sun is the most common source of this radiation. But it is also found in sun lamps and tanning booths.

      Melanoma occurs most often in older adults. But it's happening more often in younger adults. While rare, melanoma also occurs in children. Other factors that increase the risk of melanoma include:

      • Certain types of moles called dysplastic nevi, or atypical moles
      • Large nevi present at birth
      • Fair skin, freckling
      • Red or blonde hair
      • Light-colored eyes
      • Caucasian race
      • Family members with melanoma
      • Excessive skin exposure to the sun without protective clothing or sunscreen
      • Suppressed immune system


      Your doctor will look at your skin and moles. They'll remove a sample of the area and send it to a lab for closer examination.

      Your doctor may also examine lymph nodes. Enlarged lymph nodes may mean the melanoma has spread. Your doctor may also need to take a sample of lymph node tissue for further testing.