Skin Cancer - Facts and Statistics

This year more than 1.3 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. The incidence of malignant melanoma, one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer has increased significantly over the past few years, and is the most common cancer among people 25-29 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are three major types of skin cancer:

  • basal cell carcinoma  
  • squamous cell carcinoma   
  • melanoma

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can cause substantial illness and if untreated, can cause considerable damage and disfigurement. If detected and treated early, these carcinomas have a cure rate of more than 95 percent. Malignant melanoma causes more than 75 percent of all deaths from skin cancer. The disease can spread to other organs, most commonly, the lungs and liver. Malignant melanoma diagnosed at an early stage can usually be cured, but melanoma diagnosed at a later stage is more likely to spread and cause death.

The most important environmental factor in developing skin cancer is exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. That means skin cancer is largely preventable when sun protective measures and behaviors are practiced. UV rays are also a factor in the development of lip cancer. UV rays from artificial sources, such as tanning beds or sun lamps, are just as dangerous as the sun and should be avoided.

Those most at risk of developing skin cancer include:

  • Lighter natural skin color  
  • Family history of skin cancer  
  • Personal history of skin cancer  
  • Constant exposure to the sun through work and play  
  • A history of sunburns early in life  
  • Skin that burns, freckles, gets red easily, or becomes painful in the sun  
  • Blue or green eyes  
  • Blond or red hair  
  • Certain types of moles, or a large number of moles

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