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Melanoma is the least common but most dangerous and serious type of skin cancer. It can develop anywhere on the body. Most melanomas develop in your skin . But it can also form in the eye and in rare cases in internal organs such as intestine. The skin is the body's largest organ which protects us against sunlight, injury, and infection. It helps regulate body temperature, stores water and fat, and produces vitamin D. Skin is divided into two main layers namely, epidermis and dermis. Epidermis is the layer nearest the surface of the skin and is mostly made up of flat, scalelike cells called squamous cells. Round cells called basal cells lie under the squamous cells in the epidermis. The lower part of the epidermis also contains melanocytes. Dermis is the layer underneath epidermis and itcontains blood vessels, lymph vessels, hair follicles and glands.
Malignant melanoma develops in cells known as melanocytes. These cells, which produce a pigment called melanin, lie in the lower part of the epidermis. Melanin gives skin its natural color. Moles are groups of melanocytes that lie close together. They are usually tan, brown or flesh-colored.
Melanoma affects people of all ages but the chance of developing it increases with age. It occurs when melanocytes become malignant (cancerous). When melanoma starts in the skin, it is called cutaneous melanoma and when it occur in eye, the disease is called ocular melanoma or intraocular melanoma. In men, melanoma is found most often on the area between the shoulders and hips or on the head and neck. In women, melanoma often develops on the lower legs. It may also appear under the fingernails or toenails or on the palms or soles. It rarely appears in the conjunctiva, choroid, pharynx, mouth, vagina or anus.
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