Types of melanoma

There are four main types of skin melanoma:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type. It is more commonly found on the arms, legs, chest and back. The melanoma cells usually grow slowly at first, and spread out across the surface of the skin.
  • Nodular melanoma is the second most common type. It can grow more quickly than other melanomas. It is also more likely to lose its colour when growing, becoming red rather than black. It is more commonly found on the chest, back, head or neck.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma is less common. It is usually found in older people, in areas of skin that have had a lot of sun exposure over many years. It is often found on the face and neck. It develops from a slow-growing precancerous condition called a lentigo maligna or Hutchinson’s freckle. This looks like a stain on the skin. They are usually slow-growing and less dangerous than the other types of melanoma.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma is the rarest type. It is usually found on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under fingernails or toenails. It is more common in people with black or brown skin. It is not thought to be related to sun exposure.

Another rare type of melanoma is desmoplastic melanoma.

Rarely, melanoma can start in parts of the body other than the skin. It can start in the eye (ocular melanoma). Or it can start in the tissues that line areas inside the body, such as the anus or rectum (anorectal melanoma), nose, mouth, lungs and other areas. For more information about these other types of melanoma, contact our cancer support specialists on 0808 808 00 00.

Back to Understanding melanoma

Cancer and cell types

Cancers are grouped into types. Types of cancer often behave and respond to treatments in different ways.

How is it treated?

There are five main types of cancer treatment. You may receive one, or a combination of treatments, depending on your cancer type.

The skin

The skin is divided into two main layers - the outer layer (epidermis), and a layer underneath (dermis).

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It develops from cells in the skin called melanocytes.

Why do cancers come back?

Sometimes, tiny cancer cells are left behind after cancer treatment. These can divide to form a new tumour.