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What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is a common and locally destructive cancerous (malignant) growth of the skin. It originates from the cells that line up along the membrane that separates the superficial layer of skin from the deeper layers. Unlike cutaneous malignant melanoma, the vast majority of these sorts of skin cancers have a limited potential to spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) and become life-threatening.

There are three major types of skin cancer: (1) basal cell carcinoma (the most common) and (2) squamous cell carcinoma (the second most common), which originate from skin cells, and (3) melanoma, which originates from the pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes) but is less common, though more dangerous, than the first two varieties.

Return to Skin Cancer

See what others are saying

Comment from: sandra, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 08

I am very scared. I had a biopsy on my face and got the results back four weeks later. I had cancer. It was all removed and clear on biopsy. I now have to see skin specialist as I am prone to getting it as my skin is sun damaged. It is very nerve wracking.

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Comment from: Julie, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: June 30

I am 65. I have blue eyes, but olive skin. I tanned easily. I am an outdoor girl, kayaking, swimming, beach; no tanning booth ever. I used sunblock later in life, and wore hats. I had a melanoma on my left leg right above my knee and had Mohs surgery. I have had 2 small places on chest removed. My mother and father were in the sun a lot. No melanomas or any problems with skin. Mother is 90. Daddy died at 81 of lung cancer. One daughter 41 has had a small melanoma removed and has some problems with some places on her face. She has olive skin and brown eyes. I have 3 other children with no problems. Please buy sun clothing for yourself and children!

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Comment from: Riley, Male (Caregiver) Published: November 06

I'm not actually a skin cancer patient, but I'm writing this about my girlfriend, because her case is so strange that I thought it would be interesting to tell people about it. She has basal cell carcinoma on her eyebrow and eyelid that started years ago from an eyebrow wound that must have healed wrong. For years we thought that the shiny hairless lump was just scar tissue, but it caused her pain and bled a lot. Recently she went in for surgery, where a hard cyst-like substance was removed from her eyebrow. Then the skin tests came back positive for cancer. So she got another surgery and they got out as much as they could, but there is still a lot left that they were unable to remove. She has been to several specialists and meetings but no one is sure yet how to proceed because radiation therapy could cause problems with her eye. If one of us had seen pictures of basal cell carcinoma years ago, we would have recognized it and some of this might have been prevented.

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