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Skin Cancer

Cancer that forms in the tissues of the skin. There are several types of skin cancer.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Types of Skin Cancer

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer (Includes Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma)

The most common types are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are nonmelanoma skin cancers. Nonmelanoma skin cancers rarely spread to other parts of the body....Read more about Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma of the Skin

Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer. It is more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body than other types of skin cancer.....Read more about Melanoma of the Skin

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cells are found in the top layer of the skin. These cells are very close to the nerve endings that receive the sensation of touch....Read more about Merkel Cell Carcinoma

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Lymph node biopsy followed by lymph node dissection for localised skin cancer

Melanoma arises from the uncontrollable growth of cells in the skin that produce the pigment melanin; it is the leading cause of skin cancer‐associated mortality. In invasive melanoma, the tumour has infiltrated into the dermis (a deep layer in the skin).

Screening for Skin Cancer: An Update of the Evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force [Internet]

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. The majority of skin cancers are non-melanoma cancers, either basal cell cancer or squamous cell cancer. The incidence of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer has been increasing over the last three decades.

Interventions for preventing of non‐melanoma skin cancers in high‐risk groups

Non‐melanoma skin cancer is still the most common cancer in the UK, the United States and Australia. People at increased risk of getting non‐melanoma skin cancer include those with lowered immunity, a history of non‐melanoma skin cancer, rare inherited genetic skin disorders, trauma to the skin, exposure to arsenic, albinism or having had psoralen and ultraviolet A treatment. Very few studies have been conducted in people at increased risk of NMSC.

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Summaries for consumers

Lymph node biopsy followed by lymph node dissection for localised skin cancer

Melanoma arises from the uncontrollable growth of cells in the skin that produce the pigment melanin; it is the leading cause of skin cancer‐associated mortality. In invasive melanoma, the tumour has infiltrated into the dermis (a deep layer in the skin).

Sonidegib (Odomzo) for the treatment of non-melanoma skin cancer: Overview

The drug sonidegib (trade name: Odomzo) has been approved in Germany since February 2018 for adults with locally advanced basal cell carcinoma.

The course of non-melanoma skin cancer

Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Basal cell cancer is the most common kind of skin cancer, but it usually grows slowly. Squamous cell cancer is somewhat more aggressive. Most of these tumors are discovered before they spread to other parts of the body, though. Basal cell cancer Basal cell cancer (basal cell carcinoma) mainly affects people over the age of 40 and is most commonly found on the face, neck or other parts of the head that are frequently exposed to sunlight. It usually grows slowly and stays in the area where it first developed. So it is generally discovered at a stage where it can be completely removed in surgery. But it is still not totally harmless: if it is only treated at a later stage, or not treated at all, it can enter deeper layers of tissue. This can cause damage to things like your nose, eyes and facial bones. Basal cell cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body (metastasis), so it is rarely fatal. Only about 1 out of 1,000 people who have basal cell cancer die of it. Squamous cell cancer Squamous cell cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) is particularly common in older people over the age of 60. It nearly always develops on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun, especially on the face, ears, lower lip and the back of your hands. Like basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer grows where it first developed, damaging nearby tissue. But it is more aggressive than basal cell cancer, particularly if it grows in an old scar, a sore, or on your lips or ears. If left untreated, there is a danger that the cancer might spread to other parts of the body. But most squamous cell cancer tumors are discovered before metastases develop. Then it is usually quite easy to treat them. About 40 to 50 out of 1,000 people with this type of cancer die of it.

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Terms to know

Basal Cell Carcinoma
Cancer that begins in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). It may appear as a small white or flesh-colored bump that grows slowly and may bleed.
Melanoma of the Skin
A disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in melanocytes (cells that color the skin).
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
A rare type of cancer that forms on or just beneath the skin, usually in parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. It is most common in older people and in people with weakened immune systems.
Merkel Cells
A special type of cell found right below the epidermis (top layer of skin). These cells are very close to the nerve endings that receive the sensation of touch and may be involved in touch. The cells also contain substances that may act as hormones.
Neuroendocrine Cells
Cells that release hormones into the blood in response to stimulation of the nervous system.
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Skin cancer that forms in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) or in squamous cells, but not in melanocytes (skin cells that make pigment).
Skin
The outer covering of the body that protects it from the environment.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Cancer that begins in squamous cells. Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales, and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the lining of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

More about Skin Cancer

Photo of an adult

Also called: Malignant skin tumour, Malignant tumour of the skin, Malignant neoplasm of the skin, Malignant skin neoplasm, Malignant skin tumor, Malignant tumor of the skin, Cancer of the skin

Other terms to know: See all 8
Basal Cell Carcinoma, Melanoma of the Skin, Merkel Cell Carcinoma

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