does skin cancer kill you?
Around 2,000 people die each year from basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while 7,000 people die from melanoma skin cancer.

Death from basal and squamous cell skin cancer is not so frequent. However, they are the most common type of cancer in the United States.

  • It was reported that about 2,000 people die of these two types of skin cancers, and about 7,000 die of melanoma skin cancer every year in the United States.
  • However, the trend is declining due to advances in medical technologies and early detection.

People who die of skin cancers are mostly older people who never visited doctors for cancer screening. Other people who have a higher risk of dying of cancers have a weak or suppressed immune system.

Skin cancers, if detected early, have a high chance of recovery compared to other cancers.

How can one identify skin cancer?

Identifying skin cancer is typically easy because it usually occurs on the sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the scalp, the back of the hands, ears, or lips. It can, however, occur on other body parts, such as the palm, underneath the toe and fingernails, and in the genital area.

The warning signs of skin cancer may include:

  • A firm, red nodule
  • A red sore or rough patch inside the mouth
  • A flat sore with a scaly crust
  • A red, raised patch or wartlike sore in the genitals
  • A new sore or raised area on an old scar or ulcer
  • A rough, scaly patch on the lip that may evolve to an open sore
  • Nonhealing sore or sore that recurs
  • Changing mole or mole that appears different from usual ones

A person can confirm if a mole is cancerous if they have these properties:

  • Unusual appearance
  • Alters in shape
  • Itches
  • Bleeds

Some may have a suspicious spot without any other symptoms. They may be perfectly healthy apart from the bothersome spots. If the spots seem to be unusual, it is best to consult a dermatologist for early detection of skin cancer.

What causes skin cancer?

Most skin cancers occur due to repeated and prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight. Apart from sunlight, artificial sources, such as tanning beds, can cause skin cancer. UV rays can damage the DNA inside the skin cells, which is the source of instructions for everything that cells do.

DNA consists of genes responsible for providing instructions for cell growth and division. 

Two types of genes are associated with cancer development:

  1. Oncogenes: Genes that promote cell division.
  2. Tumor suppressor genes: Genes that slow down cell division or make cells die at the right time.

DNA mutations causing the activation of oncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes can lead to cancer. Researchers have found that in many skin cancers, the cells have alteration in the tumor suppressor genes.

The tumor suppressor genes mostly altered are:

  • Squamous cell cancers: TP53 tumor suppressor genes.
  • Basal cell cancers: PTCH1 or PTCH2 genes.

Apart from these causes, other causes include:

  • Xeroderma pigmentosum: People with xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) have a high risk of skin cancer. People with XP have less ability to repair DNA damage caused by sunlight. As a result, they often develop cancer on sun-exposed areas of their skin.
  • Human papillomavirus: Human papillomavirus (HPV) has genes that affect the growth-regulating proteins of the infected skin cells. As a result, the skin cells grow out of control and do not die when they are supposed to.


Skin Cancer Symptoms, Types, Images See Slideshow

8 probable risk factors of skin cancer

Here are 8 probably risk factors of skin cancer:

  1. Light-colored skin: Because white-colored skin has less melanin, which has a protective effect on people, those with fair (light-colored) skin with the following characteristics are at higher risk of getting skin cancer:
    • Freckles or burns easily
    • Blue or green eyes
    • Naturally red or blonde hair
  2. Age: Older people are more prone to skin cancer due to the buildup of sun exposure over time. Nowadays, skin cancer is prevalent among youngsters because they are getting more sun exposure.
  3. Gender: Men are more prone to skin cancer than women.
  4. Arsenic: Exposure to large amounts of arsenic can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
  5. Radiation exposure: People who have had previous radiation treatment tend to develop skin cancer in that area.
  6. Psoriasis treatment: Some people with psoriasis receiving psoralens and ultraviolet light treatments can increase the risk of developing skin cancers.
  7. History of skin cancers: People with a previous history of skin cancer have an increased chance of developing another one.
  8. Weakened immune system: Weak immune system can increase a person’s risk of developing different skin cancer. The immune system can be compromised in the following conditions:

People with albinism have a very high risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Albinism is an inherited condition with a lack of protective skin pigment melanin.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/22/2021
Image Source: iStock Images

American Academy of Dermatology. How Can I Tell if I Have Skin Cancer?

American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers.

American Cancer Society. Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer Risk Factors.