Malignant Melanoma


Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, develops in the melanocyte cells, which produce the pigment (melanin) that gives color to your skin. Melanoma also can form in your eyes and rarely, in internal organs, such as your intestines.

The exact cause of melanoma isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases your risk of developing melanoma.

The risk of melanoma seems to be increasing in people under 40, especially women. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before the cancer has spread. Melanoma can be treated successfully if it is detected early.

General Information

Melanoma occurs when something goes awry in the melanin-producing cells (melanocytes). Normally, skin cells develop in a controlled and orderly way. Healthy new cells push older cells toward your skin’s surface, where they die and eventually fall off. But when some cells develop DNA damage, new cells may grow out of control and can eventually form a mass of cancerous cells.

Just what damages DNA in skin cells and how this leads to melanoma is unclear. It likely stems from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Still, doctors believe exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning lamps and beds is the leading cause of melanoma.

UV light doesn’t cause all melanomas, especially those that occur in places on the body that aren’t exposed to sunlight. This indicates that other factors contribute to the risk of melanoma.

Sometimes melanoma can be detected simply by looking at the skin, but the only way to accurately diagnose melanoma is with a biopsy. In this procedure, all or part of the suspicious mole or growth is removed, and a pathologist analyzes the sample.

Treatment for early-stage melanoma usually includes surgery to remove the melanoma. A very thin melanoma may be removed entirely during the biopsy and require no further treatment. Otherwise, your surgeon will remove the cancer, as well as a border of normal skin and a layer of tissue beneath the skin. If you have early-stage melanoma, then this may be the only treatment you need.

If melanoma has spread beyond the skin, then treatment options may include surgery to remove the affected lymph nodes, chemotherapy, and radiation.

When caught early, melanoma is much easier to treat. When not caught early, the prognosis is poor. The disease is very aggressive and causes up to 75% of skin cancer-related deaths each year.

SSA POMS DI 23022.810 — Malignant Melanoma with Metastases

Malignant melanoma with metastases is listed under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims. Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your ondition is being considered a compassionate allowance.

Melanoma with metastases also meets Social Security Medical Listings 13.03B2a, 13.03B2b, and/or 13.03B2c. To establish disability under the guidelines of the SSA based on your onset of malignant melanoma, you will need a diagnosis of melanoma with metastases as described in a, b, or c:

a. Metastases to one or more clinically apparent nodes; that is, nodes that are detected by imaging studies (excluding lymphoscintigraphy) or by clinical examination,
b. Metastases to four or more nodes if the nodes are not clinically apparent, or
c. Metastases to adjacent skin (satellite lesions) or distant sites.

If you are applying for Social Security Administration disability benefits due to a diagnosis of malignant melanoma with metastasis, you may want to consider retaining the services of a disability representative. Applying for disability benefits can be overwhelming and the paperwork involved can be very detailed and confusing. By working with a disability representative, you can ensure that your disability claim is submitted to the SSA in the best light possible.

Your representative may be able to help expedite your disability claim if you have a malignant melanoma.