What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when there are abnormalities in the cells that make up the skin. Abnormal cells can form benign tumors (which are not cancerous), or malignant tumors (which are cancerous). There are two main types of malignant cancers, both of which have a nearly 100% cure rate when found early:
- Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer found in the base of the epidermis that accounts for about 90% of all skin cancers. It seldom spreads, but if left untreated can invade bone and other tissues under the skin.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is found on the surface of the skin. It can be more aggressive, can grow deep below the skin and spread to distant areas of the body.
- Actinic keratosis (also called solar keratosis) is a pre-cancerous condition that can turn into squamous cell carcinoma.
A third type of skin cancer, called melanoma, begins in the cells that produce pigment in the skin. This type is less common, but more serious. However, if caught early, there is a nearly 97% chance for cure.