Almost one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Almost all skin cancers are curable if detected and treated early. Treatments include excision, cryotherapy, Mohs surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Check for changes in size, shape, and skin growth. Visit your dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow and multiply out of control.
Normally, new skin cells are formed when cells age, die, or are damaged. When this process does not work properly, rapid cell growth (some of which may be abnormal cells) occurs. This collection of cells can be cancer that does not spread and is not harmful (benign) or cancer that will spread to nearby tissues or other parts of your body if not detected and treated early.
Skin cancer is usually caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
There are three main types of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer and are sometimes called “non-melanoma skin cancer.”
Melanoma is not as common as basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, but it is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If left untreated or caught at a late stage, melanoma is more likely to spread beyond the skin to organs, making it difficult to treat and potentially life-limiting.
Fortunately, most skin cancers are curable if detected and treated early. That’s why it’s important to take several precautions and talk to your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of skin cancer.
How common is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States.
Other Skin Cancer Facts:
About 20 percent of Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Each day, approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer.
Five or more sunburns in a lifetime doubles the chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that with early detection and treatment, the five-year survival rate is 99%.
Non-Hispanic whites are nearly 30 times more likely to develop skin cancer than non-Hispanic blacks or Asian/Pacific Islanders.
Skin cancer in people of color is often diagnosed at a later stage when it is more difficult to treat. About 25 percent of African Americans are diagnosed when their cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Who is most at risk for skin cancer?
Although anyone can get skin cancer, you are at risk if you:
Spend a lot of time working or playing in the sun.
Burns easily in the sun; history of sunburn.
Live in a sunny or high mountain climate.
Use a tanning bed or tanning bed.
Light-colored eyes, blond or red hair, fair or freckled skin.
Multiple moles or irregularly shaped moles.
Actinic keratosis (precancerous skin growths with rough, scaly, dark purple to brown patches).
Having a family history of skin cancer.
An organ transplant was performed.
Take drugs to suppress and weaken the immune system.
Exposure to ultraviolet light therapy has been used to treat skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.
Where does skin cancer occur?
Skin cancer is most often seen in sun-exposed areas of the skin – face (including lips), ears, neck, arms, chest, back, hands, and feet. However, it occurs in less sun-exposed, more hidden areas of the skin, such as between the toes, under the nails, on the palms of the hands, on the soles of the feet, and on the genitals.
Where in the skin layer does skin cancer develop?
Where skin cancer develops, and specifically which skin cells, is related to the type and name of skin cancer.
Most skin cancers begin in the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. The epidermis contains three main types of cells.
Squamous cells: These are the flat cells on the outer surface of the epidermis. When new cells are formed, they are constantly shed. Skin cancer that can develop in these cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal cells: These cells lie below the squamous cells. They divide, multiply, and eventually become flattened and migrate to the epidermal layer, forming new squamous cells that replace dead squamous cells. Skin cancer that starts in basal cells is called basal cell carcinoma.
Melanocytes: These cells produce melanin, the brown pigment that gives the skin its color, and protects the skin from the sun’s UV rays. Skin cancer that starts in melanocytes is called melanoma.