Cutaneous melanoma

Cutaneous melanoma, previously referred to as cutaneous malignant melanoma, is a malignant tumour of cutaneous melanocytes.

In Scotland it is the fifth most common cancer in women and sixth in men. Over the last decade the incidence of melanoma has increased by 38% in men and 22% in women in Scotland, with the most recent incident rate of 26 male and 21.3 female cases per 100,000 in 2013.However, mortality rates in men have been falling, and for women rising at a lower rate than incidence.

The most recent mortality rates are 4 men and 3.3 women per 100,000 in 2013. The primary risk factor for cutaneous melanoma is considered to be exposure to natural and artificial sunlight.

Although melanoma is the major cause of skin cancer mortality it is often curable by surgery, if recognised and treated at an early stage. In recent years considerable efforts have been made to encourage increased public and professional awareness of melanoma in order to promote early detection. In contrast, prognosis for patients with advanced melanoma remains poor although considerable progress has been made with the emergence of molecular therapies (including BRAF inhibitors) and novel immunotherapies which can lead to durable disease control in some patients.