Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

  • Everyone is at risk for skin cancer. In fact, at least one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.1-2

  • You can prevent and detect skin cancer:

    • Prevent: Seek shade, cover up and wear sunscreen.

    • Detect: Look for new or changing spots on your skin.

    • Live: See a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any new or suspicious spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching, or bleeding.

Types of skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma

  • Collectively referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers (NSMCs), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common forms of skin cancer.

  • NMSCs arise within the top layer of the skin. They can appear on any part of the body but are most frequently found on sun-exposed areas like the face, ears, bald scalp, shoulders, and neck.

  • BCC frequently appears as a pearly bump, while SCC often looks like a rough red scaly area or a sore that heals and returns.

  • Although NMSC spreads slowly, it can lead to disfigurement if left untreated.


  • Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

  • It may suddenly appear without warning, but it also can develop from or near an existing mole.

  • Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on the upper back, torso, lower legs, head, and neck.

  • Because melanoma may spread to lymph nodes and internal organs, early detection and treatment are essential.

  • New, rapidly growing moles, or moles that change, itch, or bleed are often early signs of melanoma; these should be examined by a board-certified dermatologist.

Incidence rates

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.3-4

  • It is estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.5-7

  • The majority of diagnosed skin cancers are NMSCs. Research estimates that NSMC affects more than 3 million Americans a year.5, 8

  • The overall incidence of BCC increased by 145% between 1976-1984 and 2000-2010, and the overall incidence of SCC increased 263% over that same period.8

    • Women had the greatest increase in incidence rates for both types of NMSC.9

    • NMSC incidence rates are increasing in people younger than 40.9

  • More than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma.10

  • It is estimated that 192,310 new cases of melanoma, 95,830 noninvasive (in situ) and 96,480 invasive, will be diagnosed in the US in 2019.6-7

    • Invasive melanoma is projected to be the fifth most common cancer for both men (57,220 cases) and women (39,260 cases) in 2019.6-7

  • Melanoma rates in the United States doubled from 1982 to 2011 and have continued to increase.4, 7

  • Caucasians and men older than 50 have an increased risk of developing melanoma compared to the general population.6-7

  • Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in females age 15-29.11

    • Melanoma incidence is increasing faster in females age 15-29 than in males of the same age group.12

  • Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of skin color.

    • Skin cancer in patients with skin of color is often diagnosed in its later stages, when it’s more difficult to treat.13

      • Research has shown that patients with skin of color are less likely than Caucasian patients to survive melanoma.14

    • People with skin of color are prone to skin cancer in areas that aren’t commonly exposed to the sun, like the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, the groin, and the inside of the mouth. They also may develop melanoma under their nails.13

Mortality rates

  • Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day. In 2019, it is estimated that 7,230 deaths will be attributed to melanoma — 4,740 men and 2,490 women.6-7

  • The vast majority of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.6

Risk factors

  • Exposure to ultraviolet light, from the sun and indoor tanning devices, is the most preventable risk factor for all forms of skin cancer.

  • Research indicates that UV light from the sun and tanning beds can both cause melanoma and increase the risk of a mole progressing to melanoma.15

  • Caucasians have the highest risk of developing melanoma.6-7

  • Although BCC and SCC can occur at any age, the incidence rate increases as patients get older.16-77

  • Melanoma can strike anyone, but there is an increased risk for individuals who have:             

    • More than 50 moles, large moles, or atypical (unusual) moles.18

    • A blood relative (parent, sibling, child, aunt, uncle, cousin) who has had melanoma.

    • Sun-sensitive skin (i.e., tendency to sunburn easily, red or blond hair, or blue or green eyes).6

    • A history of excessive sun exposure (including sunburns) or indoor tanning.6

    • A previous diagnosis of either melanoma or NMSC.18-22

    • A history of other cancers, such as breast or thyroid cancer.23-27

  • Individuals who have been diagnosed with either BCC or SCC are at increased risk for the development of future skin cancers, including melanoma.19

  • Using indoor tanning beds is known to increase the risk of melanoma and NMSC.28-29


  • Protecting your skin from ultraviolet light can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

  • Skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early. If you notice any new or suspicious spots on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a board-certified dermatologist.

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