What is feline melanoma?

Melanoma in cats is basically cat skin cancer. While cats don't usually have that much skin exposed to the sun because of their fur coats, there are several vulnerable spots that can get overexposed to UV radiation. The inside of the ears, the nose, and the pads of the feet are all bare areas of skin that will get frequently exposed to sunlight. They can also get tumors on their eyelids, where a portion of skin is exposed as well, or even the eye itself. There has been some suggestion that white cats are more prone to skin cancer, possibly because the fur reflects light (anything colored white does this). That could mean more ultraviolet exposure to the skin spots.

   

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Melanoma tumors can be either malignant or benign. If it's malignant, the cancer can spread throughout the body and cause other tumors. Melanomas are fairly rare in cats, but they can often be malignant. 

What does it look like?

On a cat, melanomas will look like little black bumps on the skin. If it's malignant, it will spread pretty rapidly.

What is the treatment?

As with other forms of cancerous tumors, in cats the preferred treatments are surgery or radiation therapy. The surgery can be pretty drastic - removal of the eye, amputation of a paw or lower jaw, etc. Keeping your cat indoors is another good way to keep this from happening. Indoor cats will be less exposed to ultraviolet light. Some people who let their white cats go outside also use sunscreen on the cat's exposed skin - the nose and the ears are the key places.

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