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Melanoma is skin cancer of the melanocytes, the cells that produce skin color and give moles their dark color.

Moles are collections of melanocytes. Normally, moles are benign. Sometimes, however, a mole can develop into melanoma. A new mole may also be an early sign of melanoma. The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell are the two most common. Melanomas account for less than 5% of all skin cancer cases; however, they are more dangerous because they are far more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma

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Melanoma occurs when melanocytes divide without control or order. The disease typically starts in the skin, but it also may arise in other areas where melanocytes are found, such as in the eyes, digestive system, nail beds, or lymph nodes.

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. Artificial radiation from sun lamps and tanning booths can also cause skin cancer. Exposure to sun is the primary cause of melanoma, although some patients have a hereditary predisposition to develop these malignancies.

According to the American Cancer Society 76,690 people in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma in the year 2013.

References:

Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us. Updated April 3, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.

Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003120-pdf.pdf. Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.

What are the key statistics about melanoma skin cancer? American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-key-statistics. Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.

What is melanoma? Melanoma Research Foundation website. Available at: http://www.melanoma.org/learn-more/melanoma-101/what-melanoma. Accessed April 8, 2013.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Mohei Abouzied, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.