There are four main types of skin melanoma:

Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type, accounting for around 70% of melanomas in the UK. They are more common in people with pale skin and freckles, compared to dark skinned people. In women, the most common place for it to start is on the legs, whereas in men, it’s on the chest and the back. The melanoma cells usually grow out across the surface of the skin, rather than downwards.

Nodular melanoma is the second most common type. It is a faster developing type, which can grow more quickly than other melanomas into deeper layers of the skin. It is often found on previously normal skin on the chest, back, head or neck.

Lentigo maligna melanoma is less common, making up around 10% of melanomas. It is usually found in older people, in areas of skin that have had a lot of sun exposure over many years, like the face and neck. To start with, lentigo maligna melanomas are flat and develop sideways in the surface layers of skin. They look like a freckle, but are usually larger, darker and stand out more than a freckle.

Acral melanoma is the rarest type and is usually found on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, or under fingernails or toenails. It is most common in people with black or brown skin, and isn’t thought to be related to sun exposure.

In rare instances, melanoma can start in other parts of the body other than the skin. This includes the eye (ocular melanoma) or tissues that line areas inside the body, such as the anus or rectum (anorectal melanoma), nose, mouth, lungs and other areas.15

Another rare type of melanoma is desmoplastic melanoma.

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