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Melanoma/Skin Cancer Health Center

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Skin Cancer Screening (PDQ®): Screening - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Description of the Evidence

Background

Incidence and mortality

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Skin Cancer Treatment

Most skin cancers are detected and cured before they spread. Melanoma that has spread to other organs presents the greatest treatment challenge. Standard treatments for localized basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are safe and effective. Small tumors can be surgically excised, removed with a scraping tool (curette) and then cauterized, frozen with liquid nitrogen, or killed with low-dose radiation. Applying an ointment containing a chemotherapeutic agent called 5-fluorouracil -- or an immune...

Read the Skin Cancer Treatment article > >

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (together with basal cell carcinoma, this is referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancer).
  • Melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common forms of skin cancer but have substantially better prognoses than the less common, generally more aggressive melanoma.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the United States. Its incidence appears to be increasing in some [1] but not all [2] areas of the United States. Overall U.S. incidence rates have likely been increasing for a number of years.[3] At least some of this increase may be attributable to increasing skin cancer awareness and resulting increasing investigation and biopsy of skin lesions. A precise estimate of the total number and incidence rate of nonmelanoma skin cancer is not possible, because reporting to cancer registries is not required. However, based on Medicare fee-for-service data extrapolated to the U.S. population, it has been estimated that the total number of persons treated for nonmelanoma skin cancers in 2006 was about 2,152,500.[3,4] That number would exceed all other cases of cancer estimated by the American Cancer Society for that year, which was about 1.4 million.[5]

Melanoma is a reportable cancer in U.S. cancer registries, so there are more reliable estimates of incidence than is the case with nonmelanoma skin cancers. In 2013, it is estimated that 76,690 individuals in the United States will be diagnosed with melanoma and approximately 9,480 will die of it. The incidence of melanoma has been increasing for at least 30 years.[4] From 2005 to 2009, melanoma mortality rates decreased in whites younger than 50 years by 2.8% per year in men and by 2.0 % per year in women. However, the rates have been increasing by 1.1% per year in white men aged 50 years and older and have been stable in white women aged 50 years and older during this same time period.[4]

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