Let’s shed some light on skin cancer. As the most common form of cancer, it accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. In fact, each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast
Skin cancers are named for the type of cells that become malignant (cancer). The three most common types are:
- Melanoma: Melanoma begins in melanocytes (pigment cells). Most melanocytes are in the skin. Melanoma can occur on any skin surface. In men, it's often found on the skin on the head, on the neck, or between the shoulders and the hips. In women, it's often found on the skin on the lower legs or between the shoulders and the hips.
- Basal cell skin cancer: Basal cell skin cancer begins in the basal cell (deepest) layer of the skin. It usually occurs in places that have been exposed to the sun. For example, the face is the most common place to find basal cell skin cancer.
- Squamous cell skin cancer: Squamous cell skin cancer originates in squamous cells (located in the most superficial layer of the skin). In people with dark skin, squamous cell skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer, and is usually found in places that are not in the sun as often, such as the legs or feet.
Each year, more than 68,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, and another 48,000 are diagnosed with an early form of the disease that involves only the top layer of skin. Also, more than 2 million people are treated for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer each year. Basal cell skin cancer is several times more common than squamous cell skin cancer.