What is Melanoma?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in certain skin cells called melanocytes. These are the cells that make the pigment (melanin) that colors your skin. When exposed to UV radiation, such as sunlight, the melanocytes make more pigment, causing the skin to darken or tan.

A mole is merely a cluster of melanocytes and surrounding skin tissue. They may be raised or flat, and may appear pink, brown, tan or similar to normal skin color. Common moles tend to be smaller than a pencil eraser. Melanoma can develop either from an existing mole or appear as a new mole, when the melanocytes become malignant. Melanoma can develop anywhere melanocytes are found, including the eye (ocular melanoma), digestive tract and lymph nodes, although these sites are less common.

Melanoma is now the most common cancer among people age 25 to 29. Indoor tanning is an important risk factor. It is the most serious skin cancer type and causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.