Skin Cancer Information
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One out of every five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. However, with early detection and treatment, most skin cancers are completely curable.
There are several different kinds of skin cancers, distinguished by the types of cells affected. The three most common forms of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common cancer, developing in more than 1 million people each year in the United States. Most skin cancers are BCC, which develops in the basal cells – the cells that make up the lowest layer of the skin. BCC may appear as a shiny translucent or pearly nodule, a sore that does not heal, a pink slightly elevated growth, reddish irritated patches of skin or a waxy scar. It is most common on skin that has been exposed to the sun, like the face, ears, scalp and upper trunk. While these tumors very rarely spread to other parts of the body, early diagnosis and treatment is necessary to prevent extensive damage to surrounding tissue.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
SCC begins in the squamous cells, which are found in the upper layer of the skin. It is less common that BCC, with about 200,000 cases reported each year in the United States. It may appear as a crusted or scaly area of skin with a red inflamed base that resembles a growing tumor, non-healing ulcer or crusted-over patch of skin. While it usually appears on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, it can develop anywhere, including the inside of the mouth and the genitalia. SCC requires early treatment to prevent it from spreading to other areas of the body.
Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, the cells that give skin its color. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer because it can rapidly spread to the lymphatic system and internal organs. Approximately one person dies from melanoma every hour. With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is almost 100 percent. Once it spreads, the cure rate drops.