Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma (MM) is less common than non-melanoma skin cancers, but it is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. It can develop from existing mole, but it more often appears as a new mole on the skin. The highest reported rates of melanoma in the world are in Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand, the most common site in men is the back (around 40% of melanomas in men), and the most common site in women is the leg (around 35% of melanomas in women).

If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.

Malignant melanoma SURGERY – FACTS

Length of surgery30-90 minutes
AnaesthesiaGeneral or local anaesthetic
Hospital stayDay case
Risks/complications of surgery

Frequent: Swelling, bruising, temporary numbness stiffness, discomfort on movement

Infrequent: Infection, unsightly scarring, bleeding (haematoma), wound healing problems, permanent numbness, incomplete excision, flap/graft loss


5 days facial sutures removed
2 weeks body sutures removed
2-4 weeks until swelling disappears
2-4 weeks until return to gym and other strenuous activities
12 weeks until final result – scars continue to improve over the next 12 months

Driving1-7 days
Follow up2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months
Duration of resultsPermanent unless recurrence


Malignant Melanoma

Any plastic surgery procedure is a very personal choice and understandably there are a number of questions that arise. This information sheet is a general guide for patients considering malignant melanoma treatment under the care of Dr Mackenzie. It should provide the answers to some questions that you may have.

What is malignant melanoma?

Melanoma is a malignant tumour of melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells that produce the dark pigment, melanin, which is responsible for the color of skin. Melanoma is described as:

  • In situ, if the tumour is confined to the epidermis
  • Invasive, if the tumour has spread into the dermis
  • Metastatic, if the tumour has spread to other tissues

What are the risk factors for malignant melanoma?

The main risks factors for developing MM are:

  • Cumulative sun exposure
  • Older age
  • Previous invasive MM
  • Previous non-melanoma skin cancer (BCC, SCC)
  • Many melanocytic naevi (moles)
  • Multiple (>5) atypical naevi
  • Strong family history of melanoma with 2 or more first-degree relatives affected
  • Tanning beds
  • Genetic risk factors-BRAF and p53 mutation

Who is more likely to develop MM?

The following groups of people are at greater risk of developing the MM:

  • Immunosuppressed patients
  • Organ transplant patients
  • People who have had significant cumulative ultraviolet light exposure
  • People susceptible to sunburn
  • Family history of MM
  • Familial Atypical Multiple Mole Melanoma Syndrome
  • People with many (more than 50) ordinary moles