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Common Types Of Skin Cancer

In the United States, the most common type of cancer is skin cancer and in 2009, there were 61,646 people diagnosed with it. The greater portion of the populace understands that in order to avoid getting skin cancer you should protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun, but not many people realize that there are several different types of skin cancer and the causes can actually vary slightly by type. Although there are many types of skin cancer, the disease can be divided into three main categories which are the most common: melanoma, basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer.

Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can occur on any part of the skin’s surface and begins in the pigment cells (melanocytes). The most common locations for men to develop melanoma are between the hips and shoulders, on the neck and on the skin found on the head. While women are equally likely to develop melanoma between their hips and their shoulders, the other most common location for them is on the lower portion of their legs. This type of skin cancer is very rare in those with dark skin and if they do get it, it will usually occur on the sole of the foot, the palms or under nails.

Basal Cell Skin Cancer

To start with basal cell skin cancer gets its name from its point of origin: the skin layer of basal cells. People with fair skin are at the highest risk of basal cell skin cancer and this type of skin cancer is the most common for them to develop. In general, basal cell skin cancer is more likely to occur in places that are more exposed to the sun. Because of this, the most common location on the body for this type of skin cancer to develop is the face. If detected early, typically a small excise with a biopsy study can be done in a dermatologist's office/practice. Depending on whether the sample is cancerous, a follow-on visit will require removing remaining cancerous cells. Depending on the extent, stitches may be required.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous cell skin cancer starts in the body’s squamous cells and is the most common variety of skin cancer for those with darker skin. People with dark skin are more likely to develop this type of skin cancer on areas that are not exposed to the sun, like the feet or legs. People with fair skin, however, are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancer on areas of their skin that are exposed to the sun, like the neck, ears, face and head.

Causes

The main cause of all types of skin cancer is exposure to the sun. Specifically, those who get sunburnt more frequently are generally more likely to develop skin cancer. Some other factors, such as exposure to arsenic compounds or coal and having atypical moles can also cause skin cancer. Those who have a family history of the disease and those that live at higher elevations are also at risk (as higher elevations have thinner atmospheres and therefore less protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays) as well as those who have been exposed to x-rays many times. The best way to prevent any type of skin cancer is to simply use sunscreen and avoid staying out in the sun for long stretches of time without the proper protection.