Doctor examining moles

Melanoma

Around 1,100 people are diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer each year in Ireland. 

Everyone is at some risk for melanoma, but increased risk depends on several factors: sun exposure, number of moles on the skin, skin type and family history (genetics).

On this page:

What is melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that affects melanocytes, the cells that make melanin. Melanoma happens when melanocytes change and grow out of control. 

The cell changes usually start in the surface of the skin, either in a mole or in normal skin. If not caught early, it can spread to other parts of your body. 

BOX: In rare cases, melanoma may develop in other parts of your body. For example, your eye, mouth, under your finger nails or toe nails or in your lungs or bowel. Ask your consultant or call our Cancer Nurseline for more information if you have one of these rarer types of melanoma.

Skin with melanoma diagram

About your skin

The skin is the outer covering of your body. The skin has two main layers: 

  • The outer layer (epidermis) 
  • The inner or deeper layer (dermis)

The outer layer has three types of cells: 

  • Flat, scaly cells called squamous cells.
  • Rounder cells called basal cells, found below the squamous cells. 
  • Cells that give skin its colour (melanocytes). These are in between the basal cells. 

Non-melanoma skin cancer affects the squamous cells and basal cells.
Melanoma skin cancer affects the melanocytes.

The deepest layer called the dermis has blood and lymph vessels, hair roots and sweat glands.

More information about treatment for melanoma

Treatment for melanoma includes surgery, targeted therapies  and chemotherapy.

For more information about treatments for melanoma, visit our treatment page. For information about particular treatments and post-treatment, see the links below.

Online Community Support

Looking for support?

Our cancer support section contains information and advice on coping with cancer for diagnosed patients and their loved ones.

Publications about melanoma
Downloadable booklets and factsheets
Melanoma skin cancer leaflet
Melanoma Skin Cancer - What You Should Know leaflet
This leaflet gives you information on what to check your skin for when looking for change that could be melanoma skin cancer.

For more information

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Phone

1800 200 700

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