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How Common Is Skin Cancer

Risk Factors For Cancers

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Tobacco use, alcohol use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and air pollution are risk factors for cancer .

Some chronic infections are risk factors for cancer this is a particular issue in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately 13% of cancers diagnosed in 2018 globally were attributed to carcinogenic infections, including Helicobacter pylori, human papillomavirus , hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, and Epstein-Barr virus .

Hepatitis B and C viruses and some types of HPV increase the risk for liver and cervical cancer, respectively. Infection with HIV substantially increases the risk of cancers such as cervical cancer.

Melanoma Skin Cancer Mortality

  • There are around 2,300 melanoma skin cancer deaths in the UK every year, that’s more than 6 every day .
  • Melanoma skin cancer is the 19th most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 1% of all cancer deaths .
  • In females in the UK, melanoma skin cancer is the 18th most common cause of cancer death, with around 940 deaths in 2018.
  • In males in the UK, melanoma skin cancer is the 17th most common cause of cancer death, with around 1,400 deaths in 2018.
  • Mortality rates for melanoma skin cancer in the UK are highest in people aged 90+ .
  • Each year almost half of all melanoma skin cancer deaths in the UK are in people aged 75 and over .
  • Since the early 1970s, melanoma skin cancer mortality rates have increased by around two-and-a-half times in the UK. Rates in females have increased by around three-quarters , and rates in males have more than tripled .
  • Over the last decade, melanoma skin cancer mortality rates have remained stable in the UK. Rates in females have remained stable, and rates in males have increased by almost a tenth .
  • Mortality rates for melanoma skin are projected to fall by 15% in the UK between 2014 and 2035, to 4 deaths per 100,000 people by 2035.
  • Melanoma skin cancer deaths are less common in males living in the most deprived areas.

Other Factors That Can Lead To Increased Risk Include Sunburns

Sun damage is a serious issue, so its important to understand the different factors that can lead to increased risk. Sunburns are one of these factors, but theyre not the only ones. Repeated exposure to sunlight over many years and prolonged use of tanning beds also increase your chances of developing skin cancer or other harmful conditions like premature aging. The more you know about how sun damage works about your lifestyle choices, the better equipped youll be at taking care of yourself while avoiding damaging effects on your health and appearance.

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When Should I See My Healthcare Provider

Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider or dermatologist as soon as you notice:

  • Any changes to your skin or changes in the size, shape or color of existing moles or other skin lesions.
  • The appearance of a new growth on your skin.
  • A sore that doesnt heal.
  • Spots on your skin that are different from others.
  • Any spots that change, itch or bleed.

Your provider will check your skin, take a biopsy , make a diagnosis and discuss treatment. Also, see your dermatologist annually for a full skin review.

Who Is Most At Risk For Skin Cancer

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Although anyone can develop skin cancer, youre at increased risk if you:

  • Spend a considerable amount of time working or playing in the sun.
  • Get easily sunburned have a history of sunburns.
  • Live in a sunny or high-altitude climate.
  • Tan or use tanning beds.
  • Have light-colored eyes, blond or red hair and fair or freckled skin.
  • Have many moles or irregular-shaped moles.
  • Have actinic keratosis .
  • Have a family history of skin cancer.
  • Have had an organ transplant.
  • Take medications that suppress or weaken your immune system.
  • Have been exposed to ultraviolet light therapy for treating skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis.

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What Are The Signs Of Skin Cancer

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on your skin, typically a new growth, or a change in an existing growth or mole. The signs and symptoms of common and less common types of skin cancers are described below.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in the world. In most people, its slow growing, usually doesnt spread to other parts of the body and is not life-threatening.

Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • A small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, and neck.
  • A flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
  • Areas on the skin that look like scars.
  • Sores that look crusty, have a depression in the middle or bleed often.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. This skin cancer can also form in areas such as mucus membranes and genitals.

Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • A firm pink or red nodule.
  • A rough, scaly lesion that might itch, bleed and become crusty.


Signs and symptoms of melanoma include:

  • A brown-pigmented patch or bump.
  • A mole that changes in color, size or that bleeds.

Myth: Skin Cancers Arent Deadly

Unfortunately, skin cancer can be deadly. Melanoma, which accounts for the vast majority of skin cancer deaths, is almost always curable when found in very early stages, according to the American Cancer Society. If left undetected, it can spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat. As a result, melanoma accounts for more than 10,000 of the more than 13,650 skin cancer deaths each year.

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People Who Have Fair Skin And Light Hair Are At A Higher Risk For Developing Skin Cancers

People who have fair skin and light hair are at a higher risk for developing skin cancers because they do not produce as much natural protection from UV rays as those with darker skin tones. This is because certain types of cells in their body called melanocytes, which produce melanin pigment that acts as a natural sunblock, are less active than in people with dark complexions. Even though redhead cells dont create this pigment quite as well, they can still develop cancerous lesions on the skin if exposed to too many UV rays over time. To protect themselves from these dangers, redheads need to wear sunscreen every day and avoid prolonged exposure during peak hours when the sun is brightest.

How Is Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Diagnosed

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Diagnosis is made by clinical exam and a biopsy. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are staged by size and extent of growth. Basal cell cancers rarely metastasize to lymph nodes, but they can grow quite large and invade local structures. Squamous cell cancers have a much higher incidence of lymph node involvement in the neck and parotid gland and can spread along nerves.

Melanoma is staged, based not on size but on how deeply it invades the skin layers. Therefore, a superficial or shave biopsy will not provide accurate staging information used to guide treatment. Melanomas can have a very unpredictable course and may spread to distant organs. Melanomas with intermediate thickness often require sentinel node biopsy, a surgical procedure performed by a head and neck surgeon, to determine if microscopic spreading to lymph nodes has occurred.

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Are There Complications Of Skin Cancer Treatment

Most skin cancer treatments involve some localised damage to surrounding healthy skin such as swelling, reddening or blistering of the skin where the cancer is removed. Your doctor will explain any specific risks, which may include:

  • pain or itching where the skin has been treated, or if lymph nodes have been removed
  • scarring or changes to skin colour, after a skin cancer has been removed
  • bleeding during or after surgery for more complicated skin cancers
  • reactions sometimes your body may react to medicines used in treatment or surgery
  • lymphoedema if your lymph nodes have been removed your neck, arm or leg may swell with fluid.

Its best to manage complications as early as possible, so ask your doctor for advice.

There Are Three Types Of Skin Cancers Basal Cell Carcinoma Squamous Cell Carcinoma And Melanoma

Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are three different types of skin cancers. They can all be cured through surgery or other treatments if detected early enough. Basal cell carcinomas appear as waxy lumps on the skin that may look like pimples or cysts they are typically flesh-colored with a pink tinge to them. Squamous cells form scaly patches of thickened, dry skin which is often itchy but not painful these spots usually grow in size over time before they need to be removed surgically. Melanomas are more dangerous because their color ranges from brown to black and theres no way for you to tell by just looking at your skin if one is present these can be flat or raised itchy or painless, and often appear on the arms, legs, face , and are often irregular in shape.

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What Causes Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to form. These abnormal cells rapidly divide in a disorganized manner, forming a mass of cancer cells.

Another cause of skin cancer is frequent skin contact with certain chemicals, such as tar and coal.

Many other factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. See question, Who is most at risk for skin cancer?

Three Most Common Skin Cancers

Pictures of skin cancer: Common skin cancer

It is estimated that one in seven people in the United States will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. Although anyone can get skin cancer, people who burn easily and are fair-skinned are at higher risk. Researchers believe that one serious sunburn can increase the risk of skin cancer by as much as 50%. A yearly skin exam by a doctor is the best way to detect skin cancer early, when it is most treatable. If you have a new growth or any change in your skin, be sure to see your doctor to have it examined. Remember, protecting yourself from the sun is the best way to prevent all forms of skin cancer.

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Surgery For Skin Cancer

Small skin cancer lesions may be removed through a variety of techniques, including simple excision , electrodesiccation and curettage , and cryosurgery .

Larger tumors, lesions in high-risk locations, recurrent tumors, and lesions in cosmetically sensitive areas are removed by a technique called Mohs micrographic surgery. For this technique, the surgeon carefully removes tissue, layer by layer, until cancer-free tissue is reached.

Malignant melanoma is treated more aggressively than just surgical removal. To ensure the complete removal of this dangerous malignancy, 1-2 cm of normal-appearing skin surrounding the tumor is also removed. Depending on the thickness of the melanoma, neighboring lymph nodes may also be removed and tested for cancer. The sentinel lymph node biopsy method uses a mildly radioactive substance to identify which lymph nodes are most likely to be affected.


What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider

Questions to ask your dermatologist may include:

  • What type of skin cancer do I have?
  • What stage is my skin cancer?
  • What tests will I need?
  • Whats the best treatment for my skin cancer?
  • What are the side effects of that treatment?
  • What are the potential complications of this cancer and the treatment for it?
  • What outcome can I expect?
  • Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
  • How often should I be seen for follow-up checkups?

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Merkel Cell Carcinoma: A Rare Skin Cancer On The Rise

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer that affects about 2,000 people in the United States each year.

Though its an uncommon skin cancer, cases of Merkel cell carcinoma have increased rapidly in the last couple of decades.

This type of cancer starts when cells in the skin, called Merkel cells, start to grow out of control.

Merkel cell carcinomas typically grow quickly and can be difficult to treat if they spread.

They can start anywhere on the body, but Merkel cell carcinomas commonly affect areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and arms.

They may look like pink, red, or purple lumps that are firm when you touch them. Sometimes, they can open up as ulcers or sores.

Risk factors include:

Melanoma: The Deadliest Skin Cancer

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Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, because it tends to spread if its not treated early.

This cancer starts in the melanocytes cells in the epidermis that make pigment.

About 100,350 new melanomas are diagnosed each year.

Risk factors for melanoma include:

  • Having fair skin, light eyes, freckles, or red or blond hair
  • Having a history of blistering sunburns
  • Being exposed to sunlight or tanning beds
  • Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation
  • Having a family history of melanoma
  • Having many moles or unusual-looking moles
  • Having a weakened immune system

Melanoma can develop within a mole that you already have, or it can pop up as a new dark spot on your skin.

This cancer can form anywhere on your body, but it most often affects areas that have had sun exposure, such as the back, legs, arms, and face. Melanomas can also develop on the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, or fingernail beds.

Signs to watch out for include:

  • A mole that changes in color, size, or how it feels
  • A mole that bleeds

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How Common Is Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.

Other skin cancer facts:

  • Around 20% of Americans develop skin cancer sometime in their life.
  • Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
  • Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that the five-year survival rate is 99% if caught and treated early.
  • Non-Hispanic white persons have almost a 30 times higher rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander persons.
  • Skin cancer in people with skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat. Some 25% of melanoma cases in African Americans are diagnosed when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

What You Need To Know

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide.

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
  • More than 2 people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour.
  • Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.
  • When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.

Theres more than meets the eye when it comes to skin cancer, so make sure you know all the facts. You can #SharetheFacts on social media by downloading images from our Skin Cancer Awareness Toolkit. For the latest news, visit our Press Room.

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Older People Who Spend Time Outdoors Without Sunscreen Also Increase Their Chances Of Getting More Aggressive Forms Of Skin Cancer

This is because the sun can damage cells in our skin, and over time this will result in a greater risk for developing skin cancers. This includes squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. These are all very serious types of cancer that require treatment from a medical professional to be treated successfully. Even though these types of cancers are less common among older adults, they still do occur at higher rates than other age groups. For this reason, seniors need to take care when spending time outside during the day by using sunscreen or clothing with built-in protection against UV light exposure while being careful not to overdo it.

Skin Cancer Support Groups And Counseling

Home Remedies for Skin Cancer

Living with skin cancer presents many new challenges for you and for your family and friends. You will probably have many worries about how the cancer will affect you and your ability to “live a normal life,” that is, to care for your family and home, to hold your job, and to continue the friendships and activities you enjoy.

Many people with a skin cancer diagnosis feel anxious and depressed. Some people feel angry and resentful others feel helpless and defeated. For most people with skin cancer, talking about their feelings and concerns helps. Your friends and family members can be very supportive. They may be hesitant to offer support until they see how you are coping. Don’t wait for them to bring it up. If you want to talk about your concerns, let them know.


Some people don’t want to “burden” their loved ones, or prefer talking about their concerns with a more neutral professional. A social worker, counselor, or member of the clergy can be helpful. Your dermatologist or oncologist should be able to recommend someone.

Many people with cancer are profoundly helped by talking to other people who have cancer. Sharing your concerns with others who have been through the same thing can be remarkably reassuring. Support groups for people with cancer may be available through the medical center where you are receiving your treatment. The American Cancer Society also has information about support groups throughout the U.S.

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