Pathology dictionary

What is a melanocyte?

Melanocytes are small cells that produce melanin, a dark pigment that helps protect our body from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Most melanocytes are in the skin although they can also be found inside the mouth, nose, sinuses, and anal canal.

The amount of melanin normally found in our skin determines our skin colour. People with very light skin produce very little melanin while people with very dark skin produce a lot of melanin.

A nevus is a very common non-cancerous tumour made up of melanocytes. A nevus that appears close to birth is called a congenital nevus. Another name for a nevus is a mole.

Melanoma is a type of cancer made up of melanocytes. Most melanomas start in the skin.

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