As the most common cancer in the United States, skin cancer is diagnosed over 5.4 million times a year, with many individuals being diagnosed with multiple spots. Of the 5.4 million, about 1% will die due to skin cancer.
Most commonly diagnosed for those over 50, skin cancer results from a combination of extended sun exposure, living longer, and better detection of the different types of skin cancer. Nevertheless, skin cancer affects everyone no matter the age.
Skin cancer comes in many forms including:
- Basal and Squamous Cell – Very common and treatable, it is most often found around the head, neck, and arms.
- Melanoma – Less common, Melanoma is more likely to grow and spread quickly—it is the leading cause of death related to skin cancer.
- Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) – An uncommon type of skin cancer, MCC starts when the Merkel Cells begin to grow uncontrollably. It is hard to treat MCC once it has spread beyond the skin.
- Lymphoma – Starting in the body’s immune systems, lymphomas rarely start in the skin. However, when they do, they are referred to as skin lymphomas. Lymphoma can affect every part of the body due to the lymph system.
- Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) – Developing from the cells of the lymph or blood vessels, KS cancer usually appears as tumors of purple, red, or brown coloring inside and outside of the body. These tumors are often called lesions.
Over exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is a major risk factor, since they often damage the skin’s DNA, resulting in the start of cancer formation. Any UV exposure can cause damage to the skin, whether it be tanning beds, tanning lamps or the sun itself.
However, nearly all skin cancers can be treated if found early enough. It is important to take note of skin that may have lumps, bumps, spots, sores, or other marks that are new or recently changed. If a spot is worrisome, it is better to be precautious and get it checked, than to wait.
Regular self-examination of the skin, in a full-length mirror after a bath/shower, can make you aware of any irregularities. Learning the patterns of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks can help guide a self-exam. Do not forget to check between toes, under hair, and under armpits for hiding skin irregularities. For a helpful step-by-step process on self-examination click here.
To view some examples of what skin cancer may look like, check out the American Cancer Society’s page by clicking here.