Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer FAQs

Skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States, is the result of an abnormal growth of skin cells. Cancer can affect skin anywhere on the body, but most frequently appears on skin that is exposed to the sun. There are more than a million new cases of skin cancer in the United States each year.

What causes skin cancer?

Every day, skin cells die and new ones form to replace them in a process controlled by DNA. Skin cancer can form when this process does not work properly because of damage to DNA. New cells may form when they are not needed, or older cells may not die, both of which can cause a growth of tissue known as a tumor. DNA damage is often a result of ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps.

What are the types of skin cancer?

There are three main types of skin cancer. Basal cell skin cancer occurs in the basal cell layer of the skin, and is the most common type of skin cancer in people with fair skin. Squamous cell carcinoma occurs in the squamous cells, and is the most common type of skin cancer in people with dark skin. Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer, and the most likely to spread to other parts of the body.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Skin cancer is often identified as a new or changed growth on the skin of the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands or legs. Although these are common areas for skin-cancer growths to form, they can occur anywhere.

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

To diagnose skin cancer, a doctor reviews all symptoms, and checks the skin for any unusual growths or abnormal patches of skin. If skin cancer is suspected, a biopsy is performed on the growth or area of skin in question. Once the results of the biopsy are reviewed, the type of cancer can be determined, and a treatment plan created.

What are the different treatments for skin cancer?

Treatment for skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the tumor. Most options include the removal of the entire growth, and are effective forms of treatment. Removal procedures are usually simple, requiring only a local anesthetic in an outpatient setting. In addition to excision, other treatment options for skin cancer include freezing, laser therapy and Mohs surgery. Depending on the stage and severity of the skin cancer, in addition to the removal of the growth, chemotherapy and radiation may be recommended.

How is skin cancer prevented?

Although not every case of skin cancer can be prevented, the best way to avoid it is to protect skin from ultraviolet rays.

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