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Related to amelanotic melanoma: Nodular melanoma

skin cancer

skin cancer, malignant tumor of the skin. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Rarer forms include mycosis fungoides (a type of lymphoma) and Kaposi's sarcoma. Overexposure to the sun is the primary cause of the common skin cancers, and the popularity of tanning since the 1930s lies behind the rise in skin cancer rates. The depletion of the earth's protective ozone layer also plays a role. The most effective way of preventing skin cancer is to avoid exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays by consistently applying effective sunscreens (see sunburn) and wearing protective clothing.

Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of cancer. Both arise from epithelial tissue (see epithelium). They are rare in dark-skinned people; light-skinned, blue-eyed people who do not tan well but who have had significant exposure to the rays of the sun are at highest risk. Both types usually occur on the face or other exposed areas.

Basal cell carcinoma typically is seen as a raised, sometimes ulcerous nodule. The nodule may have a pearly appearance. It grows slowly and rarely metastasizes (spreads), but it can be locally destructive and disfiguring. Squamous cell carcinoma typically is seen as a painless lump that grows into a wartlike lesion, or it may arise in patches of red, scaly sun-damaged skin called actinic keratoses. It can metastasize and can lead to death.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are easily cured with appropriate treatment. The lesion is usually removed by scalpal excision, curettage, cryosurgery (freezing), or micrographic surgery in which successive thin slices are removed and examined for cancerous cells under a microscope until the samples are clear. If the cancer arises in an area where surgery would be difficult or disfiguring, radiation therapy may be employed. Genetic scientists have discovered a gene that, when mutated, causes basal cell carcinoma.


Melanoma is the most virulent type of skin cancer and the type most likely to be fatal. As with the other common skin cancers, melanoma can be caused by exposure to the sun, and its incidence is increasing around the world. There also appears to be a hereditary factor in some cases. Although light-skinned people are the most susceptible, melanomas are also seen in dark-skinned people. Melanomas arise in melanocytes, the melanin-containing cells of the epidermal layer of the skin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin color and that helps to protect the skin from sun damage. In light-skinned people, melanomas appear most frequently on the trunk in men and on the arms or legs in women. In blacks melanomas appear most frequently on the hands and feet. It is unknown whether melanoma in blacks is related to sun exposure. It is recommended that people examine themselves regularly for any evidence of the characteristic changes in a mole that could raise a suspicion of melanoma. These include asymmetry of the mole, a mottled appearance (variations in color from shades of brown to a bluish tint), irregular or notched borders, and oozing or bleeding or a change in texture. Surgery performed before the melanoma has spread is the only effective treatment for melanoma.


See publications of the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



melanoblastoma; a malignant tumor that consists of melanin-producing cells.

Factors conducive to the development of melanomas include injury and hormonal stimulation, especially during puberty. Melanomas generally occur on the skin; less often, they appear on the retina, pia mater, nasopharynx, larynx, esophagus, and mucosa of the intestine and other organs. Melanomas usually develop at the site of pigmented or depigmented birthmarks, but they may also appear elsewhere. The process starts with a barely perceptible, painless tumor on the skin, sometimes resembling a wart, which gradually becomes dark brown or black. Occasionally, it ulcerates and bleeds. In case of injury, the tumor may enlarge quickly and become tuberous, dense at the base, and stiffer. The regional lymph nodes enlarge. The initial signs that a melanoma is developing at the site of a birthmark are the birthmark’s enlargement, an intensification or reduction in its pigmentation, and the appearance of a red rim around it. Treatment involves prompt surgical intervention, based on early diagnosis, and the use of radiotherapy and drugs to retard the growth and reproduction of the cells.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A malignant tumor composed of anaplastic melanocytes.
A benign or malignant tumor composed of melanocytes.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Pathol a malignant tumour composed of melanocytes, occurring esp in the skin, often as a result of excessive exposure to sunlight
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Grange, "Sarcoid granuloma simulating amelanotic melanoma of the iris: a case report," Journal Francais d'Ophtalmologie, vol.
The rarity of our case is the presence of amelanotic melanoma in palatine tonsil.
A clinicopathologic study of amelanotic melanoma. Surg Gynecol Obstet 1972; 135:917-20.
Timeline of a melanoma patient who used a sunbed during her teenage years and again during her 30s, and developed an invasive amelanotic melanoma 2 years after experiencing a bad sunburn from a sunbed.
But their roles in the disease pathogenesis are still unclear.3,9 In immunohistochemistry (IHC) low molecular weight keratin (LMWK), epithelial membrane antigen (EMA), carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), gross cystic disease fluid protein 15 (GCDFP-15), CD15 (Leu MI) are positive, also myoepithelial cells in S100 and smooth muscle actin (SMA) are positive.4,10 Clinical differential diagnosis includes Bartholin's duct cyst or abscess, epidermal inclusion cyst, mucous cyst, fibroma, lipoma, leiomyoma, endometriosis, amelanotic melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma.1,3,4,11
The tumour cells were negative for HMB-45 stain, thus ruling out the possibility of amelanotic melanoma.
The differential diagnosis of angiosarcoma includes haemangioma for the better differentiated lesions, Kaposi's sarcoma for those with a predominantly spindle component, and carcinoma or amelanotic melanoma for the poorly differentiated types.2
Nodular BCC may mimic adnexal neoplasms, intradermal melanocytic nevi, Merkel cell carcinoma, or even amelanotic melanoma.
The problem was, however, that a fairly large number of amelanotic melanoma lesions were seen to grow in the lung [6].
Amelanotic conjunctival naevi may mimic lymphoma, papilloma, CIN III, squamous cell carcinoma or amelanotic melanoma. Of note the aforementioned lesions do not have cysts.
An online textbook recommends either excision or shave (with or without curettage), but advises surgical excision with histologic confirmation for pyogenic granuloma lesions that can't be differentiated with certainty from amelanotic melanoma, which typically grows more slowly.