Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (nonmelanoma skin cancer) are the most common forms of skin cancer, but are easier to cure than melanoma. Under age 45, more women are diagnosed with skin cancer than men. Over age 60, more men are diagnosed with skin cancer than women, and the rate increases exponentially with age. While the number of new cases of skin cancer appears to be increasing each year, the number of deaths due to skin cancer is fairly small.

Risk Factors

Risk factors include:

  • fair skin that burns easily/being Caucasian
  • a high lifetime exposure to natural or artificial sunlight
  • a history of blistering sunburns, particularly at a young age
  • many common moles
  • a personal or family history of dysplastic nevi or melanoma


Reducing your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation decreases your risk of of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation is a stream of invisible high-energy rays coming from the sun;  tanning booths and sunlamps also produce ultraviolet radiation.You help can protect yourself by:

  • Changing the pattern of your outdoor activities to reduce your exposure to high-intensity UV radiation. The sun is strongest from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Wearing protective clothing, such as long sleeves and hats, when exposed to sunlight.
  • Using adequate amounts of sufficiently protective sunscreen.

Sunscreen is not a substitute for avoiding sun exposure.


When skin cancer is found early, it can be treated more easily. To help find skin cancer early:

  • Talk with your doctor if you see any changes on your skin that do not go away within one month.
  • Check the skin on all surfaces of your body, even in your mouth.
  • Watch for a new mole or other new growth on your skin.
  • Check for changes in the appearance of an old growth on the skin or scar (especially a burn scar).
  • Watch for a patch of skin that is a different color and becomes darker or changes color.
  • Watch for a sore that does not heal – it may bleed or form a crust.
  • Check your nails for a dark band. Check with your doctor if you see changes, such as if the dark band begins to spread.

Courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

  • Page last updated: Oct 9, 2015
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