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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:45 pm
Melanoma (mela-noma) is a group of cells containing melanin (mela-nin). Melanin is the dark pigment found in the hair, skin, and eyes. Melanomas are mostly benign (be-nine), which means they cause little or no harm. 'Benign' is a term used to describe a non-malignant (non-ma-lig-nant) tumor that will not spread or grow back after removal. Malignant melanoma is rare but the most serious form of skin cancer. Malignant melanoma is linked to overexposure to the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, some doctors believe one severe sunburn can double the chance of developing melanomas during one's lifetime, and two severe sunburns in childhood or adolescence may triple that risk. Melanomas can appear anywhere on the body and enlarge over several months without warning. They typically are assymetrical in shape, have a dark border, are varied in color, and become larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser. If you notice a change in the appearance of moles or other dark spots on the skin, see your healthcare provider immediately. When detected early and treated properly, the recovery rate for melanomas is very good. For more information about melanomas, please consult your healthcare provider.

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