skin tumours include a large variety of benign and malignant neoplasms with
distinct clinical, morphological and genetic profiles. From a clinical and
public health point of view, the malignant melanomas are the most important
group of skin cancers. Although less common than the familiar basal and squamous
cell tumours of the skin, they are much more frequently fatal, due to their
intrinsic tendency to lymphatic and haematogenic metastasis.
high-dose UV radiation is the major environmental risk factor, often in
combination with endogenous factors, including genetic susceptibility.
Malignant melanoma affects predominantly fair-skinned caucasians, although they
also occur in ethnic groups characterized by a more pigmented skin. The sharp
increase in incidence rates largely reflects lifestyle attitudes towards
vacational sun exposure, but recent data indicate that this trend is now
levelling off. Primary prevention and screening for early lesions are
considered the most promising approach to a reduction of melanoma mortality.