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Cancers of the Skin

The American Cancer Society estimates, in 2003, approximately 1.3 million new cases of highly curable basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas will be detected, approximately 60,000 new cases of malignant melanoma will be diagnosed, and approximately 9,800 persons will die from skin cancer. Death rates from basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are low. When detected early, 95% of these carcinomas can be cured.

Melanomas, in contrast to basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are deadly. Melanoma begins in melanocytes...the skin cells that make pigment (melanin). Five (5) percent of all skin cancers are melanomas. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer because melanoma can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body if not detected early.

A major preventable cause of melanoma is too much sunlight causing sunburn with blistering. Humans get as much as 80 percent of their sun exposure before the age of 18. So it is important to keep from burning and tanning when we are young. Research studies show that people who get three or more blistering sunburns before they are 20 years old have a much higher risk for malignant melanoma. They are five times more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never had a sunburn.

Each year, malignant melanoma kills about 100,000 people worldwide. Melanoma is the most common cancer among people 25 to 29 years old.

There are many other cancers of the skin and its appendages as well as cutaneous lymphomas and malignancies that metastasize to the skin and scalp.

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