Skin cancer

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Skin neoplasms are growths on the skin which can have many causes. The three most common skin cancers are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma, each of which is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises. Skin cancer generally develops in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), so a tumor is usually clearly visible. This makes most skin cancers detectable in the early stages. Unlike many other cancers, including those originating in the lung, pancreas, and stomach, only a small minority of those afflicted will actually die of the disease.[1] In fact, though it can be disfiguring, except for melanoma, skin cancer is rarely fatal. Skin cancer represents the most commonly diagnosed cancer, surpassing lung, breasts, colorectal, and prostate cancer.[1] Melanoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but it is the most serious—for example, in the UK there are 9,500 new cases of melanoma each year, and 2,300 deaths.[2] It is the most common cancer in the young population (20 – 39 age group).[3] Most cases are caused by long periods of exposure to the sun [3]. Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common skin cancers. The majority of these are basal cell carcinomas. These are usually localized growths caused by excessive cumulative exposure to the sun and do not tend to spread.

Contents

Classification

The three most common types of skin cancers are:

Basal cell carcinomas are present on sun-exposed areas of the skin, especially the face. They rarely metastasize and rarely cause death. They are easily treated with surgery or radiation. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are common, but much less common than basal cell cancers. They metastasize more frequently than BCCs. Even then, the metastasis rate is quite low, with the exception of SCCs of the lip, ear, and in immunosuppressed patients. Melanomas are the least frequent of the 3 common skin cancers. They frequently metastasize, and could potentially cause death once they spread.[citation needed]

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