Understanding Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and is responsible for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma affects mainly older people. The average age at diagnosis is 65 years. However, Melanoma is also one of the most common types of cancer in young adults, especially in women. In the early stages, melanoma can be treated successfully, but after metastasis the survival rates drop significantly. Although new therapies have greatly improved the prognosis of patients with metastatic melanoma, not all of them respond to these treatments.


Switzerland has the eighth highest melanoma incidence rate in the world. Around 2800 people are diagnosed with the disease every year.
This makes melanoma the fifth most common type of cancer and accounts for around 7% of all cancer cases in Switzerland.


Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, ranking first in men and second in women. About 290,000 melanoma skin cancers were diagnosed in 2018 worldwide and the global incidence continues to increase.

About Melanoma

Melanoma arises from pigment-producing cells of the skin, the melanocytes, and can occur in any part of the skin. They can look different and develop over several months or years, also from existing moles. Melanomas often appear as dark to black spots, which can be flat or raised. In men they are more likely to start on the trunk (chest and back) and on the legs in women. Also the face and neck are common sites.

Signs and Symptoms

A new spot on the skin — one that changes in size, shape or color, or one that looks different – is an important warning sign of melanoma. The ABCDE rule outlines the characteristics of moles that may be melanomas and is helpful guidance for monitoring skin changes:

one side does not match the other

the edges are irregular

the color is not the same throughout (it may have different colors or shades of other colors)

the spot larger than 6 millimeters (although melanomas can sometimes be smaller)

the spot is changing in size, shape or color


Ultravioloet (UV) light exposure


Fair skin, freckles and light hair

Familiy history

Personal history of having melanoma or other skin cancers

Having a weakened immune system

Being older

Being male

Xeroderma pigmentosum
(a rare skin condition that affects the skin's ability to repair DNA damage)

Personal history of having melanoma or other skin cancers

Ways to lower Risk

Melanoma can’t be entirely prevented, but there are ways to lower risk. The number one way to lower risk is to protect against UV rays, e.g. by avoiding recreational outdoor sunbathing and the visit of tanning booths.

Here are a few ways to protect your and your children’s skin:

Seek Shade

Stay in the shade between 11am and 3pm.

Wear a Hat

Wear a wide-brimmed had that protects your face, neck and ears.

Cover Up

Choose clothing with a tight knit or weave and avoid shirts that you can see through.

Use Sunscreen

Apply sunscreen (SPF 50) 30 minutes before sun exposure. Cream your skin several times a day when you are swimming or sweating.

Wear Sunglasses

Protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around them. Pick a pair that will block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.

Check the UV Index

Check the sun’s UV radiation levels before you leave the house and protect your skin accordingly.

Protect your skin and examine it regularly.

Learn more

Protect your skin and examine it regularly.

Learn more

CH-NON-00555, 07/2020