What is the pathophysiology of head and neck mucosal melanomas?

Updated: May 07, 2020
  • Author: Neeraj N Mathur, MBBS, MS, DNB(ENT), MNAMS, FAMS; Chief Editor: Arlen D Meyers, MD, MBA  more...
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Derived from the neural crest, melanocytes contain melanin pigment and are found in the basal layer of the epidermis, in the mucous membrane, and in the eyes. Melanocytes in the nasal cavity can be found in the respiratory epithelium, nasal glands, in the superficial and deep stroma of the nasal septum, and in the middle and inferior turbinates. In oral mucosa, melanocytes are located along the tips and peripheries of the rete pegs. The function of melanocytes in mucosa is unclear. In physiologic states, the melanocytes in mucous membranes do not produce melanin and contain only nonmelanized melanosomes in their cytoplasm. However, they produce substantial amounts of melanin under pathologic conditions, such as Addison disease and neoplasm. In the skin, melanin aids in the absorption of ultraviolet light, acts as a scavenger for cytotoxic intermediates, and may play a role in nervous system development. [4]

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