What is melanoma?


Melanoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the skin cells called melanocytes (cells that color the skin).

Melanocytes are found throughout the lower part of the epidermis. They make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes make more pigment, causing the skin to tan, or darken. The skin is the body’s largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. The skin has two main layers: the epidermis (upper or outer layer) and the dermis (lower or inner layer). There are three types of skin cancer:

  • Melanoma

  • Basal cell skin cancer

  • Squamous cell skin cancer

Melanoma is more aggressive than the others. Working closely together, physicians in the Department of Dermatology at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center and at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center treat more melanoma than at any other center in inland Northern California. Our specialists have extensive experience caring for patients with all stages of melanomas. Our physician-scientists also are at the forefront of research to find new and better ways to prevent, detect and cure skin cancer in all its forms.

Clinical Trials at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has a large clinical trials network. The close collaboration among our doctors and our research scientists means that new drugs and treatments developed in the laboratory can quickly move to the clinic, offering our patients immediate access to the latest therapies.

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