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How do skin cancers start?

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Like many cancers, skin cancers start as precancerous lesions. These precancerous lesions are changes in skin that are not cancer, but could become cancer over time. Medical professionals often refer to these changes as dysplasia. Some specific dysplastic changes that occur in skin are as follows:

  • Actinic keratosis is an area of red or brown, scaly, rough skin, which can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
  • A nevus is a mole, and abnormal moles are called dysplastic nevi. These can potentially develop into melanoma over time.
  • Moles are simply growths on the skin that rarely develop into cancer. Most people have 10 to 30 moles on their body that can be identified as flat or raised, smooth on the surface, round or oval in shape, pink, tan, brown or skin-colored, and no larger than a quarter-inch across. If a mole on your body looks different from the others, ask your health care provider to take a look at it.
  • Dysplastic nevi, or abnormal moles, are not cancer, but they can become cancer. People sometimes have as many as 100 or more dysplastic nevi, which are usually irregular in shape, with notched or fading borders. Some may be flat or raised, and the surface may be smooth or rough ("pebbly"). They are often large, at a quarter-inch across or larger, and are typically of mixed color, including pink, red, tan, and brown.

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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