Melanoma & Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide, with one in five Americans developing it by the time they turn 70.

Primary care providers and dermatologists across Hartford HealthCare can help identify signs of skin cancer, often referring patients to specialists at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute for advanced care if necessary.

Melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, arises from the skin’s pigment-producing cells or, less often, in the eyes or areas not exposed to the sun. This accounts for only 1 percent of skin cancers, yet causes most related deaths. But, when detected early, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent.

Exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun or a tanning booth is an important contributor to this and all skin cancers. But, not all melanomas are caused by sun exposure.

Although early diagnosis and treatment can cure most patients, melanoma can spread to other organs, requiring tailored surveillance after surgery and multidisciplinary management to prevent and treat any disease recurrence.

The most common of all cancers are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which commonly emerge in chronically sun-damaged or injured skin, and are typically cured only by surgery.


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Symptoms of Melanoma and Skin Cancer

Check your skin regularly for signs such as:

  • Changes in the size or color of a spot, mole or growth
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Oozing, bleeding or scaliness
  • Color that spreads beyond the border of a growth
  • Tenderness, itching, pain or other new sensations

To find the warning signs of melanoma, you can also follow the ABCs of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry: If you draw a line through a mole, do the two halves match?
  • Border: Are the edges notched or uneven?
  • Color: Are there different shades of brown, tan or black?
  • Diameter: Is it larger than a pencil eraser?
  • Evolving: Do you notice changes, bleeding or itching?

Screening for melanoma and skin cancer

Often, primary care providers refer patients to our team for a regular skin cancer screening, full-body scan or examination of a particular spot.


Diagnosing Melanoma and Skin Cancer

To diagnose skin cancers, we use the latest technology – including total body photography – to help get you answers quickly and avoid unnecessary biopsies. Pathology reports are read onsite. Cases are reviewed by tumor boards through our membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance.

Ocular melanoma is the most common form of cancer in the eye. Like skin melanoma, it arises from darkly pigmented cells called melanocytes. But the similarities end there. Unlike skin melanoma, most ocular melanomas are not related to sun or UV light exposure.

There are only about 2,500 cases diagnosed per year in the United States, and about 30 in Connecticut.


Treating Melanoma and Skin Cancer

We have seen revolutionary changes in how we treat melanoma patients. Inpatient regimens have been replaced by simple tailored outpatient treatments.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery: Removes the melanoma and some surrounding tissue
  • Chemotherapy: Kills cancer cells or prevents them from growing
  • Immunotherapy: Your immune system fights cancer by using substances made by your body (or in a lab) to attack the cancer cells
  • Radiation therapy: High-powered X-rays or other forms of radiation kill or prevent the growth of cancer cells
  • Targeted therapy: Drugs attack and shrink cancer cells, often with less damage to normal cells than chemotherapy
  • Topical therapy
  • Photodynamic therapy

Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center

Patients with melanoma and other skin malignancies now have the option of care at the Hartford HealthCare Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center, the first of its type in the area.

The multidisciplinary team offers expertise in dermatology, dermatopathology, surgical oncology, medical oncology, radiation oncology, otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery. They work together to develop individualized, patient centered treatment plans that ensure the highest quality clinical care for each patient.

Through the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, we also offer access to promising new therapies in pioneering clinical trials in our state-of-the-art Cancer Care Innovation Unit.

The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center focuses on the evaluation and treatment of:

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance

We offer the latest treatments through our ongoing membership in the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Alliance, which gives you access to the latest standards of care and clinical trials.

The MSK Alliance


Skin Cancer News

May 24, 2021

Hartford HealthCare Opens Melanoma and Skin Cancer Center

While the least common form of skin cancer, melanoma is the most deadly, making quick and advanced care critical. To [...]

May 21, 2021

‘They Saved My Life’: An Unexpected Melanoma Diagnosis After Kidney Scan

At the end of 2018, Al Bingham, an otherwise healthy 74-year-old, developed low back pain and a fever. With Bingham’s [...]

February 13, 2018

How Your Phone’s Light Radiation Might Damage Your Skin

It’s hard to do much of anything these days without having a smartphone in our hands. And while some side [...]

Support at the Cancer Institute

The Cancer Institute offers whatever you and your family need on your journey, whether it’s access to an oncology social worker, a nurse navigator to coordinate your care or the support of our Patient and Family Resource Center.

Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute