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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Feature:
Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Can Strike Anyone

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton

Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both had basal cell carcinomas removed. That is the most common form of skin cancer and not as dangerous as melanoma.
Photo: Corbis

Senator John McCain

Senator John McCain of Arizona has had several melanomas removed, the most serious on his left temple. He has spoken out about the importance of regular screening for skin cancer.
Photo: Frontpage / Shutterstock.com

Cybill Shepherd

Actress Cybill Shepherd was found to have a single melanoma growth on her back. It was successfully treated. She now speaks out for skin cancer awareness and regular skin cancer screening.
Photo: Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

Bob Marley

Jamaican singer-songwriter Bob Marley was just 36 when he died from a combination of melanoma and brain cancer. Although the melanoma was found early, Marley delayed treatment until it was too late.
Photo: wallpapermaning.com

In the U.S., skin cancer is the most common cancer. Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is still on the rise.

More than 2 million people are treated each year for the most common forms of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell. Basal cell skin cancer is several times more common than squamous cell skin cancer. Each year, more than 68,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma, and another 48,000 are diagnosed with an early form of the disease that involves only the top layer of skin.

Melanoma is less common than the others, but far more dangerous—even deadly. It involves the cells that produce the skin pigment melanin, which is responsible for skin and hair color. Melanoma can spread very rapidly, and the incidence of melanoma in the United States is steadily increasing. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

The development of melanoma is related to sun exposure, particularly to sunburns during childhood. It is most common among people with fair skin, blue or green eyes, and red or blond hair.

Fast Facts

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Melanoma, a more serious type of skin cancer, is less common.
  • More than 2 million people are treated for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancer each year. Basal cell skin cancer is several times more common than squamous cell skin cancer.
  • The number of cases of skin cancer has been increasing. Exposure to the sun is a major factor.
  • Estimated new cases and deaths from melanoma in the United States in 2013: New cases: 76,690; deaths: 9,480.

Summer 2013 Issue: Volume 8 Number 2 Page 4