What is melanoma?

Updated: Mar 08, 2019
  • Author: Jonathan B Heistein, MD; Chief Editor: Gregory Gary Caputy, MD, PhD, FICS  more...
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Answer

Answer

A melanoma is a tumor produced by the malignant transformation of melanocytes. Melanocytes are derived from the neural crest; consequently, melanomas, although they usually occur on the skin (see the image below), can arise in other locations where neural crest cells migrate, such as the gastrointestinal tract and brain. The 5-year relative survival rate for patients with stage 0 melanoma is 97%, compared with about 10% for those with stage IV disease.

Malignant melanoma. Courtesy of Hon Pak, MD. Malignant melanoma. Courtesy of Hon Pak, MD.

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