Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in the skin’s ‘pigmentation system’, ie the skin layer that becomes tanned in the summer. Melanomas usually start in moles or in areas of normal-looking skin. In rare cases the tumor may begin in the eyes, the respiratory passage, the intestine, or the brain. Malignant melanoma is a very dangerous type of cancer, and the patient’s chances of survival often depend on early discovery and treatment.

Melanoma skin cancer starts in the melanocyte cells of the skin. The skin protects our body from heat, injury, infection, water loss and sunlight. Its outermost layer is called the epidermis, which consists of flat, scaly squamous cells. Squamous cells contain a protein (keratin) that makes the skin strong, but flexible. Basal cells and melanocytes (the cells that give the skin its color) lie deeper in the epidermis. Beneath the epidermis is the dermis that contains nerves, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, sweat glands, oil glands and hair follicles.

Melanoma develops from cells in the skin known as melanocytes. Melanocytes give the skin its color. In melanoma the melanocytes start to grow and divide more quickly than usual and start to spread into the surrounding surface layers of skin. This happens slowly over some months. If the melanoma is found at this early stage, it can be removed with surgery. Most people with melanoma less than 1 mm in depth are cured. In the UK, most melanomas are found at this early stage.

Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment producing cells in the skin, known as melanocytes. Cancer is a condition in which one type of cell grows without limit in a disorganized fashion, disrupting and replacing normal tissues and their functions, much like weeds overgrowing a garden. Normal melanocytes reside in the outer layer of the skin and produce a brown pigment called melanin, which is responsible for skin color. Melanoma occurs when melanocytes become cancerous, grow, and invade other tissues.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It begins in cells in the skin called melanocytes. To understand melanoma, it is helpful to know about the skin and about melanocytes—what they do, how they grow, and what happens when they become cancerous.

Melanoma is a cancerous tumor that grows out of melanocyte cells. These cells make the pigment melanin which colors the skin, hair, and eyes. Melanoma most often develops in the skin (cutaneous), but it can also occur in the eye (ocular), and in other areas of the body where melanocytes are found. Melanoma is a serious cancer that can spread rapidly throughout the body.

Malignant melanoma is becoming more common, probably because of the increasing number of people from hot climates who are exposed to strong sunlight. Cases of malignant melanoma have doubled every ten years for the past 40 years. This is almost certainly because holidays in sunny climates have become more widely available and sunbathing has become more popular.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole. Most melanomas have a black or black-blue area. Melanoma may also appear as a new mole. It may be black, abnormal or “ugly looking.”

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