There are many forms of skin cancer. Some develop slowly and are relatively easy to remove with surgery. Others can spread (metastasize) through the body quickly. Recognizing skin cancer early is the most effective way to prevent it from becoming severe.
Types of skin cancer include:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
These abnormal growths originate in the outermost layer of skin. They can typically be found in areas exposed to the sun, including the ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back. As the most common form of skin cancer, about four million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. every year.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
In addition to the areas where basal cell carcinomas are found, squamous cell carcinomas are also fairly common on the face and hands. Tanning beds are a significant factor in their development. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, they can spread quickly and are much more likely to become fatal.
Melanoma develops from the melanocytes that give skin its color. They often look like moles, and can arise from an initially benign mole. They are closely associated with sunburns, and account for about 200,000 U.S. cases annually. Although very dangerous, they can be cured if treated early.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
This is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer associated with Merkel cell polyomavirus. Fair-skinned people over age 50 are at greatest risk. It presents as a firm, painless lesion where skin has been exposed to sun – often the head, neck, or eyelids. It carries an extreme risk of spreading.
The DNA damage that gives rise to skin cancer is mainly caused by exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Tanning machines that use UV light may also increase risk of skin cancer. Even one severe sunburn makes a person more likely to experience skin cancer later in life.