- Skin cancers are divided into two major groups:
- Nonmelanoma, which includes basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer
- Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer
- Over 62,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States during 2009.
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It occurs in about 800,000 - 900,000 people every year.
- Squamous cell cancer of the skin is less common than basal cell cancers. About 200,000 to 300,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.
- The monoclonal antibody ipilimumab is showing significant promise in clinical trials of patients with late stage melanoma.Late stage melanoma patients normally have very few treatment options for their cancer.
- Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor for melanoma. UV radiation is present in sunlight and is generated by indoor tanning devices. Heavy exposure early in life is particularly harmful.
- The risk of melanoma increases with increasing frequency and length of time of using indoors tanning devices.
- People with family history of melanoma have approximately twice risk of developing melanoma as those without a family history.
- The best way to lower your risk of skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun and UV light.
- Use sunscreens that block out both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Do not rely on sunscreen alone for sun protection. Also wear protective clothing and sunglasses.
Look for the following signs of possible skin cancer:
- Asymmetry (A). Skin cancers usually grow in an irregular, uneven (asymmetric) way.
- Border (B). Moles with jagged or blurry edges may signal that the cancer is growing and spreading.
- Color (C). One of the earliest signs of melanoma may be the appearance of various colors in the mole.
- Diameter (D). A diameter of 6 millimeters or larger (about the size of a pencil eraser) is worrisome.
- Evolution (E). A lesion that has changed in size, color, or appearance should be examined.
Review Date: 07/04/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.