1. What Is Melanoma Skin Cancer?

    illustration showing cross section of the skin including location of hair follicle, epidermis, dermis and subcutis with details of the epidermis showing squamous cells, melanocyte and basal cells

    Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis that are constantly shed as new ones form.
    Basal cells: These cells are in the lower part of the epidermis, called the basal cell layer. These cells constantly divide to form new cells to replace the squamous cells that wear off the skin’s surface. As these cells move up in the epidermis, they get flatter, eventually becoming squamous cells.
    Melanocytes: These are the cells that can become melanoma. They make a brown pigment called melanin, which gives the skin its tan or brown color. Melanin protects the deeper layers of the skin from some of the harmful effects of the sun. For most people, when skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes make more of the pigment, causing the skin to tan or darken.

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