Skin Cancer Truths and Lies

Skin Cancer is a type of illness that generally shows up on the outermost layer of the skin called the epidermis.  The epidermis is made of three layers.  There is an upper level, middle level, and a bottom layer. The upper and middle levels of the epidermis are made up of squamous cells while the bottom level is made up of melanocytes and basal cells.

Types of Skin Cancer

As you have probably already guessed, different types of skin cancer can affect the different levels of the epidermis.  Now let’s get into the most common types of skin cancer.

The Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Research shows that one of the most common types of cancer of the skin is the BCC. It accounts for up to 80% of all cases of skin cancer.  It is such a frequent type of cancer that upwards of 1,000,000 people are diagnosed with BCC each and every year in the United States alone.  It can range from being found in older, middle aged, and younger Americans as well.  It does not discriminate.

It has been found that BCC usually starts with areas of the body that are exposed to the sunlight such as the neck and head.  This type of cancer is very treatable if caught early and has a rare track record for spreading to other body parts which is a good thing.  If this type of cancer is not treated it has the potential to damage the skin (surrounding tissue) as well as the bones.

There is one thing that is disheartening.  People who have a history with BCC are at a higher risk for having a second bought with this type of cancer.  As long as the tumor is caught when it is small and thin it is very treatable.

Squamous Cells Carcinoma (SCC)

Another type of cancer in the skin is Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) which accounts for upwards of 20% of all skin cancer cases in the US and is more common in men than woman.  To give you an idea of the number of people we are talking about here, around 300,000 people are diagnosed with SCC each year in the United States and around 2,500 will die from this disease.

The places that SCC usually appears are the neck, face, ears, lips, and the backs of the hands.  Another place to watch for is scars or skin ulcers on different parts of the body because SCC can also begin in these spots on the body.  The good news is that this is a very treatable disease if caught early enough.  Treatment options are similar to those of BCC.


One of the most dangerous types of skin cancer is Melanoma. Melanoma affects the cells that cause the color of your skin called Melanocytes.  It can be dangerous because it can appear anywhere that your skin looks normal or it can also appear next to a mole.  Either way it could be very difficult to detect without proper screening from a physician.

Melanoma is most common on the backs of men and woman or on the legs of woman, but Melanoma can show up anywhere on the body including soles of your feet, neck, head, fingernails as well as other places not exposed to sunlight.  Melanoma is the most dangerous kind of skin cancer that one can be diagnosed with and unfortunately the numbers on the rise.


As of 2008 (6 years ago) nearly 60,000 were diagnosed and 8,400 died due to this deadly disease.  It is expected to rise in numbers faster than any other type of cancer other than lung cancer in woman.  If you look at data ranging from 1973 all the way up to 2002 the number of Melanoma cases rose 270%.

Now that is scary!  There is some good news is that this disease is also treatable when caught in the early stages but becomes much less treatable once the cancer has metastases to other organs in the body.

So now that you know all about the different types of skin cancers you might be asking yourself, “What are the risk factors for skin cancer?”  The good news is that this type of cancer is the second most preventable type of cancer next to lung cancer.  The major risk factor in getting skin cancer is ultra-violet rays (mainly from the sun).

Sun Screen

Skin Cancer Truths and Lies - SunscreenThank GOD for sun screen right!  But what most people don’t understand or maybe they just don’t care is that tanning booths are a major risk factor in getting skin cancer.

You are basically laying down on a bed that is shooting UV rays right into your body.

There are many factors that go into this of course such as the use of sun screen, clothing worn while being exposed to UV rays, the amount of UV rays you were exposed to and so on.  Skin experts at the JCPenney salon can help you learn more about these things. There was an interesting study done on this subject that found that if you were severely sunburnt as a child your chances of getting skin cancer are much higher than those who didn’t.

This can occur even decades after the initial sunburn happened.  Another risk factor is being light pigmented.  I know it’s not fair but hey, life isn’t fair.  Caucasians and others with fair skin are at a greater risk because they do not have as much melanin as African-Americans.  Melanin is what gives your skin color and the more you have the less chance you are being diagnosed with skin cancer.

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