Skin Cancer
(Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer)

Skin Cancer Summary
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in humans. There are three main types of skin cancer; basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (the nonmelanoma skin cancers), and melanoma.
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Skin cancer facts

  • There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma (the nonmelanoma skin cancers), and melanoma.
  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in humans.
  • Ultraviolet light, which is in sunlight, is the main cause of skin cancer.
  • The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal. Unexplained changes in the appearance of the skin lasting longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer is usually curable unless found in a neglected and far-advanced state.
  • Treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancer depends on the type and location of the skin cancer, the risk of scarring, as well as the age and health of the patient. Methods used include curettage and desiccation, surgical excision, cryosurgery, radiation, and Mohs micrographic surgery.
  • Avoiding sun exposure in susceptible individuals is the best way to lower the risk for all types of skin cancer. Regular surveillance of susceptible individuals, both by self-examination and regular physical examination, is also a good idea for people at higher risk. People who have already had any form of skin cancer should have regular medical checkups.

Introduction

Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancer. It is estimated that over 2 million new cases occur annually. The annual rates of all forms of skin cancer are increasing each year, representing a growing public concern. It has also been estimated that nearly half of all Americans who live to age 65 will develop skin cancer at least once.

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal.

The term "skin cancer" refers to three different conditions. From the least to the most dangerous, they are:

  • basal cell carcinoma (or basal cell carcinoma epithelioma)
  • squamous cell carcinoma (the first stage of which is called actinic keratosis)
  • melanoma

The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Together, these two are also referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancer. Melanoma is generally the most serious form of skin cancer because it tends to spread (metastasize) throughout the body quickly. Skin cancer is also known as skin neoplasia.

This article will discuss the two kinds of nonmelanoma skin cancer.

Picture of skin cancer
Picture of skin cancer
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/14/2014

Patient Comments

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Skin Cancer - Describe Your Experience Question: Please describe your experience with skin cancer.
Skin Cancer - Treatments Question: How was your skin cancer treated?
Skin Cancer - Basal Cell Carcinoma Question: Describe your basal cell carcinoma and the exams or tests that led to a diagnosis.
Skin Cancer - Squamous Cell Carcinoma Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment have been effective for your squamous cell carcinoma?
Skin Cancer - Follow-up Care Question: What did your doctor instruct you to do for followup care after your skin cancer was treated?
Skin Cancer - Symptoms Question: What kind of skin cancer symptoms did you experience?
Skin Cancer - Treatment Question: What kind of skin cancer treatment did you have?
Skin Cancer - Types Question: What type of skin cancer did you have?
Skin Cancer - Mole Question: Have you ever had a mole that turned out to be a skin cancer?
Skin Cancer - Location Question: Did you have skin cancer on your face, nose, scalp, lips, or somewhere else?

Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Skin cancers develop most commonly on sun-exposed skin including the backs of the hands and arms, upper trunk, face, nose, lips, ears, lower legs, and the hairless scalp. They much less commonly involve the nail bed, bottom of the feet, and the genital areas. Skin cancers are most common in people with lighter skin tones.