Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma -- all names derived from the skin cells where the cancer begins. Melanoma, for example, starts in the melanocytes, which are pigment-producing cells.
The vast majority of skin cancer cases are preventable.
Causes and Symptoms of Skin Cancer
By and large, skin cancer is caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning booths. Any sunburn can increase your risk, though having more frequent severe sunburns that result in peeling or blistering increase risk even further. Also, people with pale and light skin are more likely to develop skin cancer than people with darker skin.
Protecting your skin from overexposure to the sun with clothing, shade and the use of sunscreen, year-round, is the best way to prevent skin cancer.
If skin cancer does develop, its appearance can vary from person to person. Anyone who notices a mole, mass or mark on the skin that lasts for two weeks and bleeds or itches, changes shape or grows, should have it checked by a dermatologist. That's the best way to catch skin cancer early and resolve it safely. In addition, watch for skin growths that are an irregular shape or are multi-colored as these are also warning signs of skin cancer.
The most common treatment for skin cancer is some type of surgery to remove the cancer. If it's detected early enough, this is usually quite effective and minimally invasive. In some instances, people with skin cancer may also need radiation therapy, chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy or biological therapy to rid the surrounding area of cancer cells and prevent future growth. If more extensive surgery is required, plastic or reconstructive surgery may be needed to restore the appearance of the skin after the cancer has been removed.
SOURCES: American Academy of Dermatology; U.S. National Cancer Institute
Tips on how to reduce your risk of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States.