Your Skin Cancer Guide: What are common types of skin cancer?

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. And as the summer season is upon us, it’s time to take all kinds of protective measures to stay safe in the sun! Yes, we all love our outdoor barbeques, soaking in the sun on the beach, or just having a waterfight in the backyard, but it’s good to have knowledge of a few skin cancers before we dive out into the open!

Here are some most common types of skin cancer:


Melanoma starts in the melanocytes — the cells that give skin its color. It can start on nearly any part of the skin, even areas not normally exposed to the sun. Although melanoma most often affects the skin (including under the nails), it can also start in other parts of the body, such as in the eyes or mouth.

Melanoma is almost always curable when it’s found in its very early stages. And while melanoma accounts for a small percentage of skin cancers, it’s much more likely to grow and metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body, where it can be hard to treat. Because of this, melanoma causes most skin cancer deaths, accounting for nearly 10,000 of the more than 13,000 skin cancer deaths each year.

Basal Cell and Squamous Cell

These types of skin cancer begin in the outer layer of the skin and typically develop on sun-exposed areas like the face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands.

Basal cell cancers tend to grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. Squamous cell cancers are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread, although this is still not common.

Both basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers can be cured if found and treated early — when they are small and have not spread. But either type can cause problems if it is left untreated.

Risk factors which predispose to Skin cancer include:

•Too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, tanning beds or sun lamps

•Pale skin

•Exposure to large amounts of coal tar, paraffin, arsenic compounds, or certain types of oil

•Personal or family history of skin cancer

•Multiple or unusual moles

•Severe sunburns in the past

•Weakened immune system

•Older age (although melanomas can also occur in younger people)

– Common early signs and symptoms:

•Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)

•Scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way an area of skin looks

•A sore that doesn’t heal despite application of ointments and cream.

•The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark

•A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain. Any sore spot which persists for more than two weeks – with or without symptoms – with no likely explanation.

Seek the advice of your health care provider or dermatologist if you notice these symptoms.


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