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Protect your skin, prevent melanoma
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. At UW Health, we provide expert care for melanoma. If untreated, melanoma can spread to your organs and bones. When caught early, melanoma can be treated and cured with surgery.
In partnership with UW dermatologists, the melanoma program at the UW Carbone Cancer Center specializes in diagnosing melanoma early. We also excel at treating advanced melanoma.
Causes and risks
Know the causes and risks for melanoma
You have an increased risk of getting melanoma from spending too much time in the sun. Excess UV radiation can cause normal skin cells to become abnormal. The damaged skin cells can then grow out of control and attack nearby tissues.
Your skin tone and family history may also put you at risk for melanoma. Risk factors include:
Family history of melanoma
Symptoms and diagnosis
Signs and symptoms of melanoma
A change in the color, shape or size of a mole can be a sign of melanoma. Melanomas often appear:
At least ¼ inch or larger
Brown or black
Flat with uneven edges
Irregular or asymmetrical in shape
A melanoma can be itchy, sore and bleed. Alternatively, you might not experience any symptoms.
Moles can often appear on the upper back of both men and women. They are also common on women's legs.
Diagnosing and staging melanoma
Your doctor checks your skin. If your care team suspects a melanoma, we perform a biopsy. We take a small sample of tissue from the suspected melanoma. A pathologist studies the tissue to look for cancer cells.
If the biopsy shows melanoma, you will likely be referred to see a surgeon first. You may need more tests to see if the cancer has spread. These include imaging scans (CT, MRI, or PET).
Treatments and research
How we treat, prevent and research melanoma
Your care team will find the best treatment for your melanoma. For early-stage melanoma, surgery to remove the cancer cells might be the only treatment you need. Surgery also could include a sentinel lymph node biopsy to determine if melanoma has spread to the lymph nodes.
Other treatments might be necessary if the melanoma has spread to other parts of the body or is advanced. These include:
Take steps to prevent melanoma
You can prevent melanoma by protecting yourself whenever you are in the sun, no matter your skin tone. Follow these tips:
Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Check your skin often for odd marks, moles or sores that will not heal
Do not sunbathe or use tanning salons
Get regular skin checks from a dermatologist
Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you are outside
Use extra sun protection when near the water, at high elevation or in tropical climates
Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 during times of sun exposure
Use sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB radiation
Wear sun-protective clothing outside, like a hat to shade your scalp and face
Advancing melanoma care with research
The melanoma doctors and scientists at UW Health work to improve skin cancer care for you. Our Melanoma Disease-Oriented Team studies new diagnostic tools and treatments and provides multispecialty care for patients. We also lead clinical trials, which can be found here.
Inspiration from patients who have overcome
If you are experiencing life with melanoma, you are not alone. Find encouragement from other patients who have been through similar challenges.
Buck Parker's story
Veteran saved by melanoma clinical trial treatment
Veteran Buck Parker's was told he had months to live because of melonoma but immunotherapy treatment stemming from a cancer clinical trial saved his life.
Meet our team
Comprehensive melanoma care
The melanoma care team at UW Health includes specialists in dermatology, medical oncology, otolaryngology, plastic surgery, radiation oncology and surgical oncology.
Specialty care for melanoma
We provide specialized care for melanoma at UW Health clinics in Madison.
UW Carbone Cancer Center - Melanoma Clinic
- 600 Highland Ave. / Madison, WI
- (608) 265-1700
- Closed now
- View hours, services and more
At UW Health, we provide access to resources for living well during and after melanoma treatment.