§ How common is skin cancer?
- What is skin cancer?
- The 2 main types of skin cancer
- Causes of skin cancer
- What are the risk factors?
- Can skin cancer be prevented?
- What you can do
- More information
- Skin cancer – including melanoma and
basal and squamous cell skin cancers – is
the most common of all types of cancer.
- Cases of melanoma have been increasing
for many years.
- The skin is the largest organ in the
- The skin is made up of 3 layers and many different cells
- Skin cancers are named for the type of cells that become
- Cancers that develop from melanocytes, the pigment-making cells of the skin, are called melanomas.
- Skin cancers that are not melanoma are sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancers because they tend to act very differently from The 2 most common kinds are:
- Basal cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
cells called melanocytes.
- Melanomas are usually brown or black, but they can be blue, red, or a combination of They can also have no color.
- Melanomas can grow anywhere on the skin, but are more likely to start in certain
- Trunk (men) Neck
- Legs (women) Face
squamous cell skin cancers, but it’s far
- Is almost always curable in its early stages – when it’s small and has not
- Is much more likely than basal or squamous cell cancer to spread to other parts of the body if not caught
look a lot like the basal cells of the epidermis.
- They usually develop on sun-exposed areas, especially the head and
people, they now are also being seen in
- Tend to be slow growing
- Rarely spread (metastasize) to nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the
and invade the bone or other tissues
beneath the skin.
- After treatment, basal cell carcinoma can recur (come back) in the same place on the
areas of the body such as the face, ears, neck, lip, and back of the hands.
- They can also develop in scars, chronic skin sores, or in a pre-cancerous lesion called an actinic
- Less often, they form in the skin of the
- Are more likely to invade fatty tissues just beneath the skin, and are more likely to spread to lymph nodes and/or distant parts of the body, but this is
- Most skin cancers are caused by
ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure to the
area of skin that develops the cancer.
- The UV radiation changes the
genetic material (DNA)
in our cells.
- In some families with inherited melanomas, genetic changes that greatly increase the risk of melanoma are passed from one generation to the
Risk factors are anything that can
increase or decrease a person’s chance of getting a disease, such as cancer.
There are many known risk factors for the more common forms of skin cancer. Some of these cannot be changed, but some can.
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- This is the main risk factor for developing
most skin cancers
§ Fair skin, freckling, and light hair
- The risk of skin cancer is much higher for light-skinned people than for those with darker skin
- Most moles will never cause any problems,
but a person who has many moles is more
likely to develop melanoma.
§ Family history of melanoma
- Melanoma risk is greater if 1 or more of your first-degree relatives (mother, father, brother, sister, child) has been diagnosed with
- About 10% of all people with melanoma have family members with
- A person who has already had melanoma has
an increased risk of getting it again.
§ Immune suppression
- People who have been treated with medicines that suppress the immune system, such as organ transplant patients, have an increased risk of developing
- BEFORE age 50, the risk is higher for women;AFTER age 50 the risk is higher in
- Melanoma is less related to aging than most
cancers, but it’s still more likely to occur in
- Still, this is one of the few cancers that’s
also found in younger people.
- Melanoma is one of the most common cancers in people younger than
- Melanoma that runs in families may occur at a
younger age (such as in children).
- The risk of basal and squamous cell skin
cancers grows as people get older.
- Men are more likely than women to have
basal and squamous cell cancers
- Large amounts of arsenic
- Work exposure to industrial tar, coal, paraffin,
and certain types of oil
§ Treatment with radiation à increased risk
in area that was treated
- Previous skin cancer
- Long-term or severe skin inflammation or injury
- Certain rare inherited skin conditions
- Xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)
- Basal cell nevus syndrome
- HPV infection
- Reduced immunity
So what can you do to prevent and beat skin cancer?
There’s no sure way to
prevent skin cancer.
But there are things everyone can do to help reduce their risk of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers.
- Limit ultraviolet (UV) exposure
- Sun safety
- “Slip! Slop! Slap!® … and Wrap”
- Do not use tanning beds or sun lamps
§ Protect your skin with clothing
- Be aware that covering up doesn’t block
out all UV rays.
- Some sun-protective clothes have a label listing the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF)
§ Wear a hat
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s
at least SPF 30
- Put it on about 20 to 30 minutes before you go
- Reapply at least every 2 hours
§ Do not use sunscreen to stay out in the sun longer
- Wear sunglasses
- Wrap-around sunglasses
- Block UVA and UVB light
§ Stay in the shade
- Especially during the hottest part of the day
(often 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are the strongest—stay inside or be extra
§ Protect children from the sun
- Kids tend to spend more time outside and
burn more easily
- Make sun safety a habit for your kids!
§ Avoid other sources of UV light
- Tanning beds
- Tanning lamps
- Sun lamps
- Certain types of moles have an increased
risk of developing into a melanoma.
- Routine removal of many moles is not generally recommended as a way to prevent
§ Sun exposure and vitamin D
- Vitamin D is needed to build
- Vitamin D is made naturally by your skin
when you are in the sun.
- It’s best to protect your skin from the sun and get Vitamin D by mouth (from your diet or a vitamin supplement)
Examples of amounts of Vitamin D in foods:
3 oz salmon = 447 IU
1 glass (8 oz) of vitamin D fortified
orange juice = 137 IU
1 glass (8 oz) of vitamin D fortified milk = 120 IU
Skin cancer can often be found early – when it’s small, has not spread, and is easier to treat.
§ Get your skin checked by a health care professional
- This should be part of a routine cancer-related check- up
- Your health care professional should check your skin carefully
- Your doctor should be willing to discuss any concerns you might have about this
§ Know your skin
- Check your own skin, preferably on a regular
- Learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks so that you’ll notice any
- Self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length Use a hand-held mirror for areas that are hard to see.
- Examine all areas, including your palms and
soles, scalp, ears, nails, and your back.
- Skin cancers can look like a variety of marks
on the skin
- Key warning signs:
- A new growth
- A spot, bump, or mole that has slowly gotten larger (over a few months or 1 to 2 years)
- A spot or mole that’s changing in shape, feel, or
- A sore that doesn’t heal within 3 months
- Evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot
- Can be either flat or raised
- Can be round or oval
- Generally less than about ¼ inch across (about the width of a pencil eraser)
- Can be present at birth or appear later
- Many moles can appear at the same time, especially on areas of the skin exposed to the
- Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay
the same size, shape, and color for many years
- Over time moles may fade away in older
- Most people have moles, and almost all molesare harmless
- It’s important to recognize any changes in a mole that can suggest a melanoma may be developing and see a doctor right
The ABCD rule can help tell a normal mole from an
abnormal mole or a melanoma. Moles that have any of these traits should be checked by a doctor:
- Asymmetry: half the mole does not match the other
- Border irregularity: edges of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or notched
- Color: mole is not the same color all Differing shades of tan, brown, or black may be present, and sometimes patches of pink, red, blue, or white
- Diameter: larger than 6 millimeters or about ¼ inch, but
melanomas can be smaller than this
A normal mole à
Be sure to show your doctor any area of your skin that concerns you.
©2010 American Cancer Society, Inc. No.0052.19