Metastatic Cancer: Melanoma

Gross Anatomy of Metastatic Melanoma

Lyz Boyd and Jennifer Kong

Learning Objectives

At the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Name common sites of metastasis.
  • Upon visual inspection, identify key features of metastatic melanoma in organs.


Melanoma frequently metastasizes to the liver, lungs, and brain.  However, metastases can also occur in other organs.  The DHPLC collection is fortunate to have specimens (from various patients) of melanoma metastases in the liver, brain, lungs, kidneys and the heart.  Regardless of the metastatic site, the melanoma will look similar to that seen in the primary site (i.e. skin).  In essence, metastases will look like moles in these organs which normally would NOT have any melanocytes present.


Metastatic Melanoma in Liver (DHPLC Specimen: M0935) and Lung (DHPLC Specimen: A0901C) by Lyz Boyd, licensed under All rights reserved



Metastatic Melanoma in Brain (DHPLC Specimen: P0932 ) and Heart (DHPLC Specimen: B0901) by Lyz Boyd, licensed under All rights reserved

Melanoma can metastasize to other, less common, sites.  The following images are from different patients, all with metastatic melanoma.

Recall that there are melanocytes in the uvea of the eye.  Although less common, melanoma can arise within the eye and metastasize to any of the pre-mentioned locations.

Section Review

  • Common sites of metastasis are liver, lungs, and brain.
  • Metastasis can occur to other organs, provided that they have blood or lymphatic flow.  These abnormal melanocytes will grow in this new location, regardless of whether melanocytes were previously present. Thus melanoma will visually appear similar to those of the original site, but now in a distant organ:  dark, irregularly shaped and sized moles of varying colours.
  • Melanoma can also arise from tissues which also have melanocytes – the eye being an example of a less common origin of melanoma.

Review Questions


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Pathology Copyright © 2022 by Lyz Boyd and Jennifer Kong is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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