Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a skin cancer that affects millions of people in the United States each year. While anyone can develop BCC, it usually occurs in light-skinned patients older than 40 years. Patients with a history of repeated sun exposure are at risk for getting BCC. Other risk factors for BCC include light eyes and light hair, a history of blistering sunburns (particularly in childhood) or close relatives with skin cancer. Basal cell carcinomas are considered slow-growing tumors that almost never metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). Untreated BCCs have the potential to continue to grow and destroy surrounding skin and nearby structures.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer, and up to 700,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. SCC is mainly caused by long-term exposure to the sun over the course of a lifetime. Risk factors are skin that easily sunburns, a history of long-term sun exposure, and previous skin cancer. Men are twice as likely to have SCC as women. It rarely occurs before age 50 years and is most common after age 70 years. In some patients with abnormal immune systems or patients taking certain medications, SCC may occur more often and grow more rapidly. Lesions of SCC may grow and cause local damage and deformity to surrounding skin and adjacent tissue and, in some cases, may spread throughout the body and result in death.
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer and is the fifth most commonly occurring cancer in the United Stats. Because melanoma may develop within normal skin or in an existing mole, it is important to monitor new growths or changes in the size, shape, or color of existing moles. Existing moles that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, have varied colors, have a diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or that are evolving and changing (size, shape, or color) should be checked by a dermatologist. In contrast to other types of skin cancer, melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin surface including hands and feet, nails, and in the mouth or genital area. If left untreated, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body. Fortunately, when detected at an early stage, melanoma can be effectively treated - often preventing the spread of the disease.