Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States. There are different types of this disease. The two most common are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Melanoma, another type, is less common, but more dangerous. Nearly 70,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year, and it causes 8,700 deaths. Melanoma is now twice as common as it was two decades ago. The increase is so dramatic that the U.S. Surgeon General has issued a call to action to take steps to prevent melanoma.

One way to protect yourself from skin cancer is by protecting your skin from getting too much of the sun's ultraviolet light. It's especially important to avoid getting sunburned, as this increases the risk of melanoma. Using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing, including a hat with a brim, are good ways to do this.

While sun protection is important for adults, it's even more important for children. Most of the average American's sun exposure happens before age 18. Even a couple of blistering sunburns in childhood increase the risk of later skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Articles

Age Spots (Solar Lentigo, Liver Spots)

As you age, years of being in the sun start to add up. Age spots (also called liver spots or solar lentigo) are collections of pigment caused by exposure to the sun. Pigment is deposited as a response to injury, just like a scar is a response to a cut. The pigment collects in areas injured because of thin skin or greater sun exposure. Age spots also can be caused by bruising that leaves blood pigment behind. They are most common in people older than 55. The spots commonly appear on the hands, but they can be almost anywhere, especially sun-exposed areas, such as the face, back, arms, feet and shoulders. (Locked) More »

Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin

Squamous cells are small, flat skin cells in the outer layer of skin. When these cells become cancerous, they typically develop into flat or raised, rounded skin tumors. Sometimes the skin around the tumors gets red and swollen. Most cases of squamous cell carcinoma occur in people who have spent lots of time in the sun—especially those with fair skin and blue eyes. Some cases develop on skin that has been injured or exposed to cancer-causing agents.  (Locked) More »

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell cancer is the most common form of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States. Basal cells are small, round skin cells normally found in the upper part of your skin. When these cells become cancerous, they grow out of control. Basal cell tumors rarely spread or cause death. But cancerous basal cells usually turn into small skin tumors that can destroy skin and nearby tissues. They can grow large over time, causing damage around and under them. Basal cell cancer can grow on any part of the body. However, most basal cell cancers are found on some part of the face. This can cause disfigurement, and can interfere with the function of the eyelids, nose, and mouth. (Locked) More »

Kaposi's Sarcoma

Kaposi's sarcoma is a type of cancer caused by the virus human herpes virus 8. The tumors appear as red or purple patches on the skin, mouth, lungs, liver, or gastrointestinal tract. (Locked) More »

Skin Biopsy

Doctors take biopsies of areas that look abnormal and use them to detect cancer, precancerous cells, infections, and other conditions. For some biopsies, the doctor inserts a needle into the skin and draws out a sample; in other cases, tissue is removed during a surgical procedure. For this test, abnormal areas of skin are removed to test for cancer or other skin diseases. (Locked) More »

Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection, usually caused by Group A streptococcus or Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Impetigo is most common in children. However, it sometimes occurs in adults who have other itchy skin conditions, such as eczema. Other conditions that increase your risk of developing impetigo include chickenpox, reactions to insect bites, burns of the skin and diabetes. Impetigo often appears around the nose and mouth. However, it can develop wherever the skin is broken by cuts, scrapes, scratching, or cold sores, and where bacteria can enter. (Locked) More »

Keloids

Keloids are raised overgrowths of scar tissue that occur at the site of a skin injury. They occur where trauma, surgery, blisters, vaccinations, acne or body piercing have injured the skin. Less commonly, keloids may form in places where the skin has not had a visible injury. Keloids differ from normal mature scars in composition and size. Some people are prone to keloid formation and may develop them in several places. (Locked) More »

Molar Pregnancy

After a sperm fertilizes an egg, new tissues develop that normally form the fetus and placenta. A molar pregnancy, also known as gestational trophoblastic disease, occurs when the tissue that was supposed to form the placenta grows abnormally and can form a tumor that can spread beyond the womb or uterus. In a "complete mole," no normal fetal tissue forms. In a "partial mole," incomplete fetal tissues develop alongside molar tissue. These two conditions are noncancerous (benign) and make up 80 percent of cases. Three malignant forms of gestational trophoblastic disease occur, including invasive molar pregnancy, choriocarcinoma and placental site trophoblastic tumors. Almost all molar pregnancies, even the cancerous type, can be cured. (Locked) More »

Melanoma

Melanoma is cancer of the cells ("melanocytes") that give skin its color. It develops when these cells change and reproduce aggressively. The number of cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is increasing faster than any other cancer. Doctors aren't sure why melanoma rates are soaring. It could be from spending too much time in the sun during outdoor activities. It could also be due to global changes, such as the depletion of the ozone, which absorbs many of the sun's harmful rays. Your pattern of sun exposure appears to affect your risk of developing melanoma more than the total amount of sun exposure in your lifetime. Short bursts of intense sun seem most dangerous, especially if you get sunburned. Being out in the sun can cause changes (mutations) in skin cells' genes. Researchers have recently found several gene mutations shared by many melanoma tumor cells. It is likely that one or more of these mutations starts the cancer. (Locked) More »