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Skin Cancer Risk

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and it affects more than two million Americans each year.


Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. It occurs when mutations form in the DNA of healthy skin cells. It usually develops on skin that is exposed to the sun; most commonly on the scalp, face, back, lips, neck, ears, chest, arms, hands and legs. However, it can also develop on areas that are not usually exposed to the sun, like the palms of your hands, the space between your toes, under your toenails and your genital area.

Skin Cancer Risk

Who it Affects

Skin cancer affects all skin tones. All ages can be affected, however skin cancer is less common in children.

Skin Cancer Risk

What to Look for

Evaluate your skin regularly and check your moles with the ABCDE’s of skin cancer. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any changes that worry you. Not all changes are cancer, but call your doctor right away if you notice:
A = Asymmetry - each side of the mole looks different
B = Border - irregular, blurry or jagged edges
C = Color - variations of color from one area of the mole to another
D = Diameter - if it is larger than a pencil eraser
E = Elevation - the mole is raised above the surface and has an uneven surface

Types - the three most common

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type and is usually found on face, ears or scalp.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common type and also occurs on sun exposed areas like face, scalp, neck, arms, legs and hands. This is a more aggressive type of skin cancer and can invade deeper layers of the skin and fatty tissue.

Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer and the most serious. It can develop anywhere on the body.

Risk Factors

  • Pale complexion—difficulty tanning, easily sunburned
  • Multiple and/or unusual moles
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight, tanning beds and unprotected skin
  • Sunny or high altitude climates
  • Severe sunburns
  • Family history of skin cancers
  • Weakened immune system—from medical conditions and/or medications
Skin Cancer Risk