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How does skin cancer start?

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Skin cancers start as precancerous lesions. These are changes in skin that aren't cancer, but could become cancer over time. Your doctor may call these changes dysplasia. For example:

  • An area of red or brown, scaly, rough skin, called actinic keratosis. This can become cancer.
  • Moles, which rarely become cancer. Most people have 10 to 30 moles. If you have one that looks very different from the others, have your doctor look at it.
  • Abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi. These can become cancer over time. People sometimes have as many as 100 or more dysplastic nevi. They usually have an odd shape, with notched or fading borders. They are often large, at a quarter-inch across or larger, and are typically of mixed color.

SOURCES: 

National Cancer Institute. 

National Institutes of Health. 

WebMD Medical Reference from the American College of Physicians: “Section 12 VIII Lung Cancer.”

News release, FDA.

American Cancer Society.

American Lung Association. 

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on February 05, 2019

SOURCES: 

National Cancer Institute. 

National Institutes of Health. 

WebMD Medical Reference from the American College of Physicians: “Section 12 VIII Lung Cancer.”

News release, FDA.

American Cancer Society.

American Lung Association. 

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian on February 05, 2019

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Are the number of skin cancer cases increasing in the United States?

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