Melanomas are cancerous (malignant) tumors involving specialized cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes have the unique ability to produce the pigment melanin and can be found in the skin, mucous membranes, eye, adrenal gland, and brain. Melanomas have a particular tendency to spread to distant sites (metastasize) at an early stage of growth. The effect of this spread is often premature death. The incidence of this type of skin cancer has recently been shown to be rising exponentially, and it is the single most common cause of death from skin disease.
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