Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, 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: September 01, 2011
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
ARTICLE
precancerous lesions slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Do You Know Your Melanoma ABCs
VIDEO
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
ARTICLE
 
screening tests for men
SLIDESHOW
Vitamin D
SLIDESHOW
 
Is That Mole Skin Cancer
VIDEO
Brilliant sun rays
Quiz
 

WebMD Special Sections