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Conditions InDepth: Melanoma

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. However, it is possible for a mole to develop into melanoma. A new mole may also be an early sign of melanoma. The 3 major types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell are the 2 most common. Melanomas account for less than 5% of all skin cancer cases, but they are more dangerous because they are far more likely to spread to other parts of the body.

Cancer Cell Growth

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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.


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Melanoma. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated August 26, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Melanoma skin cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
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Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed April 8, 2013.
What is melanoma? Melanoma Research Foundation website. Available at:
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Accessed April 8, 2013.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 3/15/2015