Skin Cancer Prevention

What are the different types of skin cancer?

There are several types of skin cancer, which start from normal skin cells and transform into skin cancer through uncontrolled reproduction. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are cancers of the epidermis, the uppermost layer of the skin. Melanoma is a cancer of the melanocyte pigment cells, which are responsible for the production of the skin pigment melanin. Melanoma is much more dangerous than the other two types of skin cancer. Many other different types of skin cancer exist, though they occur at a much lower rate.

How common is it?

Skin cancer is very common. In fact, it is the most common malignant cancer that can occur in a human being. It is estimated that at least one in five inhabitants of developed countries will develop skin cancer over the course of a lifetime. The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. It is rarely fatal, but can be disfiguring if left untreated. The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma, which has the potential to spread to other organs. Melanoma is far less common, though much more dangerous than the other two types. One in 50 people will be diagnosed with melanoma during their lifetime. It is the most common form of cancer in young adults.

Who is at higher risk of melanoma?

Anyone can develop melanoma, but you can have a higher risk of developing melanoma if:

    • you have previously had melanoma,
    • your parents, brothers or sisters have had melanoma,
    • you have a large number of moles on your skin or have many unusual moles,
    • you have fair skin that is sensitive to ultraviolet radiation and burns easily,
    • you have had severe/blistering sunburns in the past, especially in childhood,
    • you spend lots of time outdoors, unprotected, due to work or leisure activities,
    • you tan intentionally or use artificial tanning devices.