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Skin Cancer: Facts, Statistics, and You

 

Skin cancer refers to any cancer that begins in your skin. It may develop on any part of your skin and can spread to nearby tissues and organs if the disease advances.

There are two main types of skin cancer:

  • Keratinocyte cancer develops in skin cells called keratinocytes. It has two main subtypes, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
  • Melanoma develops in skin melanocyte cells. Melanocytes are skin cells that generate skin’s brown pigment.

Other types of skin cancer include:

  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • cutaneous (skin) lymphoma
  • skin adnexal tumors
  • other types of sarcomas

These types account for less than 1 percent of all skin cancers.

What are the types of skin cancer?

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Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More people receive skin cancer diagnoses each year in the United States than all other cancers combined, including breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer.

 

Each case of skin cancer is considered unique if a doctor believes it’s a separate cancer. A person may have multiple different types — and cases — of skin cancer.

Each year, more than 3 million Americans are affected by BCC or SCC, estimates the American Academy of Dermatology. Having one skin cancer diagnosis puts you at a higher risk for having another, too, but there are preventive measures you can take.

Here are the main types of skin cancer:

 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer. More than 4 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the United States each year, estimates the Skin Cancer Foundation. This makes it the most common form of all cancers in the United States.

However, death from BCC isn’t common. About 3,000 people die from BCC each year.

BCC most frequently develops on areas often exposed to the sun. This includes the:

  • neck
  • back
  • face
  • scalp
  • hands
  • arms

However, BCC can also develop in skin areas that don’t get a lot of sun exposure.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

More than 1 million cases of SCC are diagnosed in the United States each year, notes the Skin Cancer Foundation. SCC is responsible for about 15,000 deaths each year.

SCC most commonly appears on areas of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun. SCC, like BCC, may also develop in places that don’t get a lot of sun exposure. For example, SCC can develop on the genitals, inside the mouth, and on the lip.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It develops in the same skin cells that create moles. Because of this, melanoma is particularly dangerous. It can look like a harmless mole when it first develops.

Fewer people develop melanoma than BCC or SCC. It accounts for only 1 percent of all skin cancer cases, estimates the American Cancer Society. It is, however, responsible for the majority of deaths.

In 2018, melanoma will account for more than 91,000 new cases of skin cancer in the United States, notes the National Cancer Institute. More than 1 million Americans live with melanoma.

Actinic keratosis (AK)

AK is a less common type of skin cancer. It’s more accurately considered a precancer.

Most people associate skin cancer with big, red bumps or brown spots. AK, on the other hand, presents as rough, dry, scaly patches that develop on skin that’s had frequent exposure to sun or artificial UV light, like tanning beds.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can destroy delicate skin. Over time, AK can form. More than 58 million Americans have AK, estimates the Skin Cancer Foundation.

How common is skin cancer?

You may think places with sunnier, hotter weather have more cases of skin cancer. This isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes California and Florida had fewer cases per 100,000 people than states with cooler climates, like Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, in 2015.

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