Cutaneous malignant melanoma (CMM) is a potentially lethal type of melanoma, or skin cancer. It comprises ~3 to 5% of all melanoma diagnoses and is responsible for ~75% of all melanoma deaths. CMM is most common in Caucasian people, specifically Caucasian women ages 25-29. CMM occurs when melanocytes -- pigment-producing cells in the skin -- become cancerous. CMM causes the growth of a brown lesion or tumor on the skin. The ABCDE method is typically used when classifying melanoma lesions -- asymmetry, irregular border, uneven color, large diameter, and lesion evolution.
Like with other cancers, CMM may metastasize or spread to other areas. CMM is classified as “stage 2” once it metastasizes to 3 or more lymph nodes. Tumor depth, development, and ulceration are other important qualifications in CMM staging.
The cause of CMM is unclear but it is likely due to many factors and may include UV damage and genetic susceptibility. Genes are parts of your DNA that code for proteins necessary for the body’s functions and various traits. The most common gene associated with CMM susceptibility is CDKN2A, which codes for a tumor-suppressant protein. If CDKN2A is inactivated via a genetic mutation, the protein is not produced, thus prompting the onset of CMM.
Diagnosis for CMM includes a thorough skin examination and a biopsy of unusual lesions. Skin examinations can also be done at home to monitor for early signs of CMM. Treatment for CMM is most effective when diagnosis occurs at stage 1, and treatment may include surgical excision of the lesion. Chemotherapy and radiation are options for stage 2 CMM, but have shown limited success. Patients who have been successfully treated for CMM are more likely to develop other melanomas in the future; therefore, lifelong dermatologic follow-ups are necessary.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with CMM, speak with your doctor about the most current treatment options.
Description Last Updated: Aug 22, 2018