What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that forms from the melanocytes, cells in your skin that produce melanin, which is a pigment that makes your skin tan. Melanocytes are located deep in the epidermis (the top layer of your skin), which is made up mostly of squamous cells and basal cells. Squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers are much more common than melanoma, but melanoma is much more dangerous and aggressive than these other forms of skin cancer. Melanomas account for only about 3% of all skin cancers, but have the highest death rate of any type, and are responsible for more than 85% of skin cancer related deaths. While rare compared to other skin cancers, the incidence of melanoma has been increasing more than any other malignancy over the last 50 years. Melanoma is now the 6th most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US, and one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in young adults between the ages of 20 and 30. Fortunately, melanoma is very curable when diagnosed at an early stage.