Malignant melanoma is one of the most deadly of all cancers. It begins in the melanocytes, those skin cells that produce the brown pigment, melanin, which makes the skin tan. The malignant cells still produce the melanin pigment so the tumor usually is a mixture of tan, brown or black. Melanoma can spread to distant organs, making early detection and treatment essential in preventing these distant metastases. Melanoma may begin in a mole or arise on normal skin. The most worrisome moles are flat or only slightly raised but many people call these freckles. If you have moles, you should check them each month to be certain there are no changes in size, color, shape or sensation such as itching. In addition, a dermatologist should check your moles at least once a year or when you detect a change in a mole. Early melanoma is curable with a simple office surgery.