Most common cancer in U.S.

Protect your skin

Are you of European or Scandinavian heritage? You may have a higher prepotency for skin cancer.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) reveals skin cancer is the nation’s most common cancer. AAD research estimates daily 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with the disease.

Background on Your Skin and the Disease

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states the skin is the body’s largest organ. Skin has several layers, with the two main layers being the epidermis (upper or outer layer) and the dermis (lower or inner layer). Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, which is made up of three kinds of cells:

• Squamous cells: Thin, flat cells that form the top layer of the epidermis.

• Basal cells: Round cells under the squamous cells.

• Melanocytes: Cells that make melanin and are found in the lower part of the epidermis. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes make more pigment and cause the skin to darken.

The CDC added Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common types of skin cancer. They begin in the basal and squamous skin layers. Usually, these can be cured.

The third and most challenging skin cancer to treat is Melanoma, which begins in the melanocytes. Of all types of skin cancer, melanoma causes the most deaths because of its tendency to spread to other body parts, including vital organs.

The AAD notes skin cancer tends to be more prevalent in women up to age 50. Then, more prevalent with men over age 50. AAD research added skin cancer occurrence is 30 times higher for White or fair skinned individuals then those with Hispanic, Black, and Asian/Pacific Islanders heritage.

General Symptoms and Detection

The AAD and other medical authorities reveal skin cancer warning signs include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn’t heal. In addition, if you notice skin spots that are different from the others, or anything changing, itching, or bleeding.

Should any of these be present or you have a family history of skin cancer, you are encouraged to immediately make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist or your personal physician.


The National Cancer Institute (NCI) states that there are a variety of treatments for patients with basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, and actinic keratosis.

The NCI reveals following types of treatment are generally used:

• Surgery

• Radiation therapy

• Chemotherapy

• Photodynamic therapy

• Immunotherapy

• Targeted therapy

• Chemical peel

• Drug therapy

Depending on the Melanoma’s stage or detection, a patient’s treatment is more aggressive and concentrated. According to the American Cancer Society a physician treatment team might involve:

• A dermatologist: a doctor who treats diseases of the skin.

• A surgical oncologist (or oncologic surgeon): a doctor who uses surgery to treat cancer.

• A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy.

• A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.

The NCI added skin cancer treatment may cause side effects. In addition, patients may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial. Patients can enter clinical trials before, during, or after starting their cancer treatment.

Detailed treatment and related information can be found online at www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/skin-treatment or www.aad.org.

Survival Rates

The AAD offers the following general survival rates:

• Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly.

• The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99 percent.

• The five-year survival rate for melanoma that spreads to nearby lymph nodes is 68 percent. The five-year survival rate for melanoma that spreads to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 30 percent.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a retired health care CEO. He frequently writes historic feature stories and op-eds for various Michigan newspapers. As a Vietnam-era veteran, he served in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Naval Reserve. He served on the public affairs staff of the secretary of the Navy. He grew up near the tip of the mitt and resides in suburban Detroit.


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