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Home: Diseases & Conditions: Skin Cancer: Types: Melanoma

Melanoma: Overview


Malignant melanoma is an accelerated, metastatic type of skin cancer that originates in the cells of the epidermis. In this disorder, pigment-producing cells called melanocytes become cancerous, grow, and multiply at a devastating rate. Although melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, it is the most serious form of skin cancer. Melanoma may be cured, if caught and treated early, but it is rarely curable in its later stages.

Melanoma skin cancer cells are more likely than non-melanoma skin cancer cells to spread or metastasize. This means that they break away from the original tumor, travel through the blood or lymphatic vessels, and then grow within other parts of the body.

The most well-documented risk factor for malignant melanoma is exposure to UV radiation.

Melanoma affects equal number of men and women and affects any part of the body. It usually appears after age 50, though it can develop at any age. People with light skin are far more likely to develop melanoma than dark-skinned people.

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