Cancer Information 

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Skin Cancer: Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer. It comes from the cells in the skin that produce pigment called melanocytes. Melanoma is potentially a deadly skin cancer, killing more young women than any other cancer.  Of the cancers for which screening is available, skin cancer is the only cancer that has continually rising numbers of diagnoses and deaths. Fortunately, it can usually be treated effectively if it is identified and treated in its early stages.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the two most common forms of skin cancer. BCC is the most common type of skin cancer accounting for about 80 percent of all skin cancers. SCC is responsible for about 15 percent of all skin cancers. Both of these types of skin cancer are associated with sun exposure and a light complexion. Fortunately, both types can usually be treated successfully if identified early and treated appropriately.

It is also important to protect your skin from the sun. Regular sun protection can decrease your chances for developing future skin cancers.  All of the following steps should be taken for sun protection and are listed in order of importance.

  • Do not intentionally expose your skin to natural or artificial sunlight.
  • Avoid sun exposure when possible, especially in the middle part of the day when the sun is most directly overhead.
  • Protect your skin from the sun with clothing. Wear a hat with a broad brim, sunglasses, a long sleeved shirt and pants when outdoors.
  • Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all skin surfaces that you cannot cover with clothes.


A change on the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer.  A new growth, a sore that doesn't heal, or a change in an old growth might be a sign.  Not all skin cancers look the same.

  • A growth that is small, smooth, shiny, pale, or waxy lump.
  • Firm, red lump
  • Sore or lump/growth that bleeds or develops a crust or a scab
  • Flat red spot that is rough, dry, or scaly and may become itchy or tender
  • Red or brown patch that is rough and scaly

Learn more about melanoma

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is most at risk of getting skin cancer?
Due to their relative lack of skin pigmentation,  Caucasian people generally have a much higher risk of getting non-melanoma or melanoma skin cancers than dark-skinned people.

Q: How common is skin cancer?
The incidence of both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers has been increasing over the past decades. Currently, between 2 and 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer and, according to Skin Cancer Foundation Statistics, one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Q: Does the incidence of skin cancer increase with age?
Yes, the incidence of both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas increase with age.