Skin Cancer Facts
What is the skin?
The skin is the largest organ of the body. It covers the internal organs and protects them from injury, serves as a barrier to germs such as bacteria, and helps prevent fluid loss. The skin helps control body temperature and gets rid of certain body wastes. Cells in the skin communicate with the brain and allow temperature, touch, and pain sensations.
How many people get skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,600 cases of skin cancer in 2013.
What are basal and squamous cell skin cancers?
These types of skin cancer are classified as non-melanomas to set them apart from the more serious type of skin cancer, melanoma. They usually start in the basal cells or squamous cells, which is how they get their names. These cells are found at the base of the outer layer of the skin.
Most basal and squamous cell cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Depending on the type, they can be fast or slow growing, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body.
Basal cell or squamous cell cancers can be cured if found and treated early.
What is melanoma skin cancer?
Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes – the cells that produce the skin coloring or pigment known as melanin. Melanin helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun.
Melanoma is almost always curable when it is found in its very early stages. Although melanoma accounts for only a small percentage of skin cancer, it’s far more dangerous than other skin cancers and causes most skin cancer deaths.
Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,600 cases of invasive skin cancer in 2013. It accounts for more than 9,000 of the 12,000-plus skin cancer deaths each year.
The overall 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 91%. For localized melanoma, the 5-year survival rate is 98%; survival rates for regional and distant stage diseases are 62% and 15%, respectively. About 84% of melanomas are diagnosed at a localized stage. You can read more in our document called Melanoma Skin Cancer online, or call us for a free copy.
Other types of skin cancer
There are a few rare types of skin cancer such as keratoacanthomas, Merkel cell carcinoma, skin lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma, skin adnexal tumors, and sarcomas. These are all non-melanoma types. You can find out more about these and other non-melanoma cancers in our document called Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell online, or call us for details.
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
Risk factors for non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers include:

Can skin cancer be prevented?
The best ways to lower the risk of skin cancer are to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety. You can still exercise and enjoy the outdoors while using sun safety at the same time. Here are some ways to be sun safe:
Follow these practices to protect your skin even on cloudy or overcast days. UV rays travel through clouds.