Overview on Skin Cancer

Submitted by Associates in Dermatology

Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
These rates are skyrocketing in the U.S., where more than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually. Since 1975, the skin cancer death rate among Florida residents over age 50 has doubled! Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.*
Skin cancer is a malignant condition that begins with the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. Recent studies show that skin cancer can result as an accumulative effect from sun damage (90 percent in the case of nonmelanoma skin cancers). This is also why skin cancer rates among baby boomers are escalating.

  • Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers (Melanoma causes more than 75 percent of skin cancer deaths), but when caught early is almost always curable. A melanoma is typically a dark mole. Check for changes in the number, size, shape and color of pigmented areas.
    Half of all melanoma skin cancers occur in men over age 50. Also, if you’re a male baby boomer, you are at twice the risk of dying from melanoma as your female counterparts. Unfortunately, men are far less likely to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing than women. Compounding their failure to protect their skin, men are also less likely to check their skin for lesions or have regular skin exams. In many cases, it is a man’s wife who has to force her husband to visit a dermatologist.
  • Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most frequently occurring skin cancer, with an estimated 2.8 million cases diagnosed every year in the U.S. Though they are generally easily treated, BCCs tend to keep growing if untreated, and in rare cases can start to spread. A BCC tends to be pearly looking, sometimes with rolled borders. The signs to look for are also an open sore, a shiny bump, a reddish or irritated patch or a white, yellow or waxy scar-like area.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most frequently occurring skin cancer. Every year, about 700,000 SCC cases are diagnosed in the U.S. Most are easily treated, but if not removed, some can metastasize and spread to distant tissues and organs, becoming life threatening. They are often a pink and scaly, wart-like growth/open sore with irregular borders, that crusts and occasionally bleeds, persisting for weeks.
  • Actinic Keratosis (AK), pre-cancers, are often an early stage in development of skin cancer and can turn into SCC if left untreated. It is an abnormal growth of keratinocytes, the skin cells that make up the top layer of the skin (epidermis). AKs are small (usually grow from one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch or more) crusty or scaly patches, often red or a combination of colors. It sometimes itches, is inflamed and occasionally bleeds.

Follow up and Outcomes

Cure rates are high, and recurrence rates are low for cancers that are caught and treated early. Early detection of skin cancer is key. Regular skin exams at a dermatology practice are highly recommended. For more information, visit

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