Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma


Acral lentiginous melanoma is a rare type of skin cancer. It begins when the melanocytes in the skin grow out of control and form tumors. Melanocytes are the cells responsible for making melanin, the pigment that determines the color of the skin.

The main sign of acral lentiginous melanoma is a black or brown discoloration that appears on the sole of the foot or palm of the hand. It may resemble a bruise or stain, but over time it grows in size.

Acral lentiginous melanoma occurs equally among people of all races and backgrounds. It accounts for the majority of melanoma in people of color.

The causes of acral lentiginous melanoma are not yet fully understood. This is the only type of skin melanoma not associated with sun exposure.

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Subungual Melanoma

Subungual melanoma is a subtype of acral lentiginous melanoma that develops under the fingernails and toenails. It is sometimes mistaken for blood or fungus. It usually looks like darkened streaks or discolorations that run vertically across the nail bed. As it progresses, it can cause breaks and cracks in the nail. 

Treatment for Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

Acral lentiginous melanoma is highly curable when diagnosed early. The goals of treatment are to:

  • cure the cancer
  • preserve the appearance of your skin
  • prevent the cancer from coming back

The extent and depth of the melanoma guides your care plan. Treatment often involves surgery to remove the melanoma. MSK doctors have particular expertise in removing these cancers, which usually occur in important and sensitive areas of the body.

If the melanoma is more advanced and has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes or internal organs, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or a combination of therapies may be used to shrink the tumor.

Learn more about melanoma treatment.