Melanoma Also known as malignant melanoma is a type of cancer that develops from the pigment-containing cells known as melanocytes. Melanomas typically occur in the skin, but may rarely occur in the mouth, intestines, or eye. In women, they most commonly occur on the legs, while in men they are most common on the back. Sometimes they develop from a mole with changes such as an increase in size, irregular edges, change in color, itchiness, or skin breakdown.
The primary cause of melanoma is ultraviolet light (UV) exposure in those with low levels of skin pigment. The UV light may be from either the sun or from other sources, such as tanning devices. About 25% develop from moles. Those with many moles, a history of affected family members, and who have poor immune function are at greater risk. A number of rare genetic defects such as xeroderma pigmentosum also increase risk. Diagnosis is by biopsy and analysis of any skin lesion that has signs of being potentially cancerous.