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Skin Cancer: Signs, Risks, and Prevention

Skin Cancer: Signs, Risks, and Prevention

May. 2nd, 2022

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America? There are over 5 million diagnosed cases of skin cancer each year.1

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow rapidly and uncontrollably.2 New skin cells typically form when old cells die or become damaged. However, when this process does not happen as it should, rapid cell growth can produce skin cells that may become cancerous.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Here are some facts about skin cancer, signs to look out for, and how you can prevent skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer that fall into two categories: non-melanoma skin cancer and melanoma skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer.3 It arises from the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis. The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin.

Intense and extended sun exposure causes BBCs. This type of skin cancer typically appears as red patches, shiny bumps, scars, or an open sore. Basal cell carcinoma is slow at progressing and usually does not spread or cause death.

Basal cell carcinoma will typically create a waxy bump, a flat, flesh-colored scar-like bump, or bleeding and scabbing.4

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, and it begins in the flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis.6 This type of cancer commonly occurs on sun-exposed areas of skin such as the face, neck, and lips.5

Squamous cell cancer is more likely to grow deep into the skin and spread to other body parts than basal cell cancer. This type of skin cancer will appear as a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly surface.


Melanoma is less common than the other types of skin cancer, but it’s more likely to spread.7 Although it’s not the most common skin cancer, it is one of the most common cancers among young people under the age of 30, especially women.8

Melanoma develops due to melanocytes growing out of control. Melanocytes are the cells that give your skin color. These cells make a brown pigment called melanin that causes the skin to develop a tan or brown color, and also works to protect the skin from some of the sun’s harmful effects.

Melanoma is different than other skin cancers because it can often occur in areas of the body that are not exposed to the sun. About 30% of melanomas begin as existing moles, but most start on normal skin.8

Melanomas can appear on the body in many different ways, including a large brown spot, a mole that changes in color or size, a lesion that itches or burns, or an irregular lesion with portions that are different in color.

Signs of Skin Cancer

Checking your skin for changes can help you detect skin cancer early and receive a diagnosis. Skin cancer typically develops on skin exposed to the sun: face, neck, chest, arms, hands, and legs.

The American Academy of Dermatology created a helpful memory device, “ABCDE,” for people to learn the warning signs of melanoma.8

  • Asymmetry – is the bump or mole on your skin asymmetrical/uneven?
  • Border – are the edges bumpy or not smooth?
  • Color – is the color uneven, or are there different shades of brown and red?
  • Diameter – is the spot larger than an eraser at the tip of a pencil?
  • Evolving – is the spot new or changing?

If you notice any unusual spots or lesions on your body, especially after sun exposure, it’s best to get them checked out by a dermatologist.

Risks Factors for Skin Cancer

Anyone can get skin cancer, but people with certain characteristics may be more at risk.9

  • A light or fair skin color
  • Skin that burns easily or causes freckles to appear
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Blonde or red hair
  • Certain types of moles or a large number of moles
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Older age
  • Being located at a latitude closer to the equator where the sun’s rays are strongest
  • Scars on the body
  • Tanning regularly, in the sun or in a tanning bed

Diagnosis and Treatment

When diagnosing skin cancer, a dermatologist will ask if you’ve had any changes to your skin and they will inspect any moles or lesions on your body.2

If any mole or lesion causes suspicion, they will perform a biopsy.10 A biopsy involves removing a tissue sample from the area to determine if you have cancer and what type. Imaging tests can detect if the cancer has spread to other areas of the body.

The treatment for skin cancer will depend on the stage of cancer. Cryotherapy is a common form of treatment for skin cancer that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the skin cancer.11 There are also skin cancer removal surgeries to remove skin cancer from the affected spot and surrounding areas.

Chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy are discussed more in-depth with patients in a later stage of skin cancer or if cancer has spread.

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

Most skin cancers occur from sun exposure and its ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays from the sun and tanning beds can damage skin cells.12

Luckily, you can protect yourself from extended exposure from UV rays. Here are some tips to reduce your risk of developing any skin cancer type.13

  • Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen is essential to keep your skin protected from UV rays. Click here to read about different types of sunscreen and how to choose the best kind for your skin.14
  • Wear sun-protective clothing. Light-weight, long-sleeve shirts and pants help protect your skin when spending time in the sun.
  • Enjoy the shade. Take frequent breaks from the sun and enjoy time in the shade, especially if you’re near water, sand, or snow, all of which reflect the damaging sun rays and increase your risk of sunburn.
  • Avoid tanning beds. UV lights in tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature aging.
  • Practice skin self-exams. Know what signs to look for with new moles or changes on your skin.
  • Visit a dermatologist. If you are at risk for skin cancer or see new moles frequently, visit a dermatologist annually for checks.

Protect Your Skin

Protecting your skin is extremely important to avoid skin concerns and all different types of skin cancer. If you’re at risk for developing skin cancer or notice any concerning spots on your body, contact a dermatologist.  

To celebrate Skin Cancer Awareness Month, take the time to learn the facts, share them with your loved ones, and protect your skin!

To learn more about Saber Healthcare and what we do, click here.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


  1. “May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month!” The Skin Cancer Foundation, Accessed April 19th, 2022.
  2. “Skin Cancer.” Cleveland Clinic, November 19th, 2021. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  3. Venosa, Ali. “Back to Basics: Understanding the World’s Most Common Cancer.” The Skin Cancer Foundation, Accessed April 19th, 2022.
  4. “Skin Cancer.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. December 5th, 2020. Accessed April 20th, 2022.,lesion%20that%20itches%20or%20burns.
  5. Yetman, Daniel. “Squamous Cell Cancer: Pictures, Symptoms, Treatment, and More.” Healthline Media, January 12th, 2022. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  6. “What Are Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers?” American Cancer Society, July 26th, 2019. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  7. “What Is Melanoma Skin Cancer?” American Cancer Society, August 14th, 2019. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  8. “Melanoma.” Cleveland Clinic, June 21st, 2021. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  9. “What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 18th, 2022. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  10. “Diagnosing skin cancer.” COH HoldCo, Cancer Treatment Centers of America. March 17th, 2022. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  11. “Cryosurgery to Treat Cancer.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Cancer Institute. June 21st, 2021. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  12. “What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer?” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 18th, 2022. Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  13. “Prevent Skin Cancer.” American Academy of Dermatology Association, Accessed April 20th, 2022.
  14. “How to Choose the Right Sunscreen.” Saber Healthcare Group, May 28th, 2021. Accessed April 20th, 2022.