Last reviewed 01/2018

Melanocytes are neural crest-derived cells found in the epidermal stratum basale and stratum spinosum of the skin, in hair bulbs, pia arachnoid and the retina. They are spindle-shaped and possess dendritic processes.

They are unique in their synthesis of melanin, which is one element in the formation of skin colour. Melanin has a protective role, absorbing and dispersing the sun's rays, and mopping up free radicals.

Melanocytes can derive a number of neoplasms, both benign and malignant. Malignant melanoma has doubled in incidence in the last twenty years.