Chronic Condition Snapshot: Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancer cases in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed each year. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer

There are three main types of skin cancers:

  • Basal and Squamous Cell: refers to the types of skin cells where the cancer develops, located in the base of the surface level of skin
  • Melanoma: this more serious and sometimes fatal form of skin cancer affects melanocytes, the skin cells that produce pigment, melanin. While highly curable in early stages, it causes as many as 12,000 cancer deaths per year

Causes and Risk Factors (there are several factors that increate risk of skin cancer)

  • Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (sunlight or tanning booths)
  • Pale skin (easily sunburned, doesn’t tan much at all, natural red or blonde hair)
  • You or other members of your family have had skin cancer
  • Multiple or unusual moles
  • Severe sunburns in the past


  • Changes in skin, particularly in appearance or size of a mole or other skin discoloration
  • Bleeding, oozing, scabbing of mole or skin discoloration
  • Spreading of pigment beyond the borders of an existing mole
  • Sensation including pain or itching


  •  Avoid unprotected and extended time in the sun, particularly during the hottest times of day (10am-4pm)
  • Wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater an reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
  • Wear protective clothing including a hat and sunglasses
  • Avoid sun lamps and tanning beds altogether
  • Practice these same precautions consistently, even on cloudy days


Depending on the form of skin cancer, treatment may involve removing the cancer and/or radiation, chemotherapy, or other forms of local therapy. While dermatologists (skin doctors) treat many skin cancers, you may be referred to an oncologist (cancer specialist) for more serious forms.


Source: American Cancer Society (