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Introduction to Skin Cancer

Malignancies of the skin are the most commonly diagnosed cancer type worldwide.(1) The foremost cause of skin cancer remains UV radiation from sunlight. However, this disease, classically seen in older adults, is becoming increasingly common in younger populations due to tanning beds and exposure to other cancer causing elements. Skin cancer may be classified as either non-melanoma skin cancer (cancer types include squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma) or melanoma. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. However, melanoma which accounts for only 4% of skin cancer is responsible for 80% of skin cancer deaths.(1)

The incidence of skin cancer is very high. It is the most diagnosed of all cancers. However, there aren't many exact numbers because the cases of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers aren't required to be reported to cancer registries, partly because of their low lethality and very high curability rate. At the least, it is known that over 2 million people were treated for these cancers in 2006. Melanomas, on the other hand, have a very high mortality rate that has been increasing over the several decades, especially among younger women and the elderly, so there is much more data on this. In 2015, it is estimated that there will be 73,870 new cases of melanoma and 6,230 new cases of other non-epithelial skin cancers, with 9,940 deaths for melanoma and 3,400 deaths for non-epithelial.(2)

Young men DO get cancer. View the clip and then watch an interview with Philip Groom, a skin cancer survivor diagnosed when he was 16 years old.

Please visit the following sections to learn more about skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Education:
CancerQuest, with help from the Melanoma Group at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, has developed a skin cancer curriculum. The curriculum is available free for educational (non-profit) uses. View/Download the curriculum.

Learn more about skin cancer or make an appointment at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

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References for this page:
  1. Miller AJ, Mihm MC Jr. "Melanoma." New England Journal of Medicine. 2006 Jul 6;355(1):51-65. [PUBMED]
  2. American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2015. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2015. [http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf]
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