Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

Select An Article
Font Size

Topic Overview

Skin cancer is often or usually caused by years of too much sun exposure. More than 90% of all skin cancers are found on body parts that get the most sun most of the time. The face, neck, ears, hands, and arms are common body parts that get skin cancer.

Skin cancer can often be prevented by avoiding overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays (UV rays). UV rays from artificial sources, such as tanning beds or sunlamps, are just as dangerous as those from the sun.

The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma.

The ABCDE systemcamera.gif is a guide to detect signs of skin cancer in moles or growths on the skin.

  • Asymmetry. One half doesn't match the other half.
  • Border irregularity. The edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • Color. The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance. Changes in color distribution, especially the spread of color from the edge of a mole into the surrounding skin, also are an early sign of melanoma.
  • Diameter. The mole or skin growth is larger than 6 mm (0.2 in.), or about the size of a pencil eraser. Any growth of a mole should be of concern.
  • Evolution. There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding), or color of a mole.

People with skin types that burn easily and do not tan are at highest risk for skin cancers. Anyone who has had severe sunburns or many sunburns is at high risk for skin cancers.

A person in the southern United States has a 50% greater risk for getting basal cell cancer than a person in the northern United States. The risk for squamous cell cancer is four times greater in the southern U.S. The closer a person lives to the equator, the greater the cancer risk from sun exposure. The risk for skin cancer also increases if you are exposed to intense sun year after year over your lifetime.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Malignant melanoma
About 40-50 percent of those who live to be 65 may get it. Here’s how to spot early.
Woman checking out tan lines
There’s a dark side to that strive for beauty. See them here.
sauteed cherry tomatoes
Fight cancer one plate at a time.
Lung cancer xray
See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
12 Ways to Protect Your Skin from Melanoma
precancerous lesions slideshow
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
screening tests for men
Vitamin D
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
Brilliant sun rays