Skip to Content

Childhood Melanoma Diagnosis

If a spot looks suspicious, parents should go to a specialist such as a dermatologist to have the place checked. Most melanomas are diagnosed with a biopsy. Once the biopsy is done, surgeons will perform another surgery to ensure the melanoma is completely removed. Based on the first biopsy sentinel node mapping may be required, and depending on pathology from that biopsy, a lymph node resection may be performed. Misdiagnosis or mistreatment may lead to a higher staging or worse prognosis.

Finding an experienced team that diagnoses and treats children with melanoma is important. A qualified team should include a pediatric oncologist, an experienced melanoma dermatopathologist who knows how to do sentinel node analysis and a surgical oncologist who is experienced in sentinel node mapping and biopsy.

If your child has been diagnosed with melanoma, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Childhood Melanoma Staging

(source: National Cancer Institute)

The process used to find out whether melanoma has spread within the skin or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment. Talk with your child's doctor about what the stage of your cancer is.

Stage 0: Abnormal melanocytes are found in the epidermis. These abnormal melanocytes may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called melanoma in situ.

Stage I: Cancer has formed. Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB:

  • Stage IA: In stage IA, the tumor is not more than 1 millimeter thick, with no ulceration.
  • Stage IB: In stage IB, the tumor is either:
    • not more than 1 millimeter thick and it has ulceration; or
    • more than 1 but not more than 2 millimeters thick, with no ulceration.

Stage II is divided into stages IIA, IIB, and IIC.

Stage IIA: In stage IIA, the tumor is either:

  • more than 1 but not more than 2 millimeters thick, with ulceration; or
  • more than 2 but not more than 4 millimeters thick, with no ulceration.

Stage IIB: In stage IIB, the tumor is either:

  • more than 2 but not more than 4 millimeters thick, with ulceration; or
  • more than 4 millimeters thick, with no ulceration.

Stage IIC: In stage IIC, the tumor is more than 4 millimeters thick, with ulceration.

Stage III: The tumor may be any thickness, with or without ulceration. One or more of the following is true:

  • Cancer has spread to one or more lymph nodes.
  • Lymph nodes may be joined together (matted).
  • Cancer may be in a lymph vessel between the primary tumor and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Very small tumors may be found on or under the skin, not more than 2 centimeters away from where the cancer first started.

Stage IV: The cancer has spread to other places in the body, such as the lung, liver, brain, bone, soft tissue or gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Cancer may also spread to places in the skin far away from where the cancer first started.

If your child has been diagnosed with melanoma, we’re here to help. Call 1-877-632-6789 to make an appointment or request an appointment online.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Our unique multidisciplinary approach
  • Our extensive array of melanoma clinical trials, offering the latest therapies
  • Our nationally recognized research program
  • Innovative melanoma treatments, including lymphatic mapping and sentinel node biopsy, targeted therapy, limb perfusion, interleukin-2 and immune-based therapy
  • Most advanced diagnostic methods
  • One of the world’s largest melanoma programs
  • MD Anderson's Melanoma Moon Shot Program is an ambitious effort to reduce cancer deaths through the rapid discovery and implementation of new melanoma treatments

Melanoma Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Melanoma is treated in our:

Find Your MD Anderson Location



© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center