What You Need to Know about Skin Cancer

Did you know that more than half of all newly diagnosed cancers are skin cancers? Approximately 2 million patients are diagnosed each year with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – the two most common types of skin cancer. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.'

While people with fair skin and light-colored hair and eyes are at highest risk of skin cancer, those with darker skin, including African Americans, are also susceptible to the sun’s damaging UV radiation. There are several main types of skin cancer, briefly outlined here.

Common types of skin cancer and precancerous lesions

Actinic keratosis (AK)2
A precancerous growth on the epidermis (outer layer of skin], AK is caused by long-term exposure to sunlight. AK sometimes progresses to more serious squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)3
BCC, the most common type of skin cancer, is diagnosed approximately 2.8 million times annually.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)4
SCC is the second most common skin cancer and is seen twice as frequently in men as in women.

The most serious form of skin cancer, causing the most deaths, melanoma is almost 100% curable if found and treated early. Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases.


1. Gloster. HM. Neal K. Skin Cancer in Skin of Color. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2006;55: 741- 60.
3. Howard W. Rogers, MD, PhD, Martin A. Weinstock, MD, PhD, et al. Incidence Estimate of NonMelanoma Skin Cancer in the United States, 2006. Archives of Dermatology 2010.
4., June 2010