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What is skin cancer?

Skin cancers are malignant growths of the skin. Each year, more than one million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer.

The most common types of skin cancer affect the epidermis: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. The least common but most deadly type of skin cancer is melanoma, a cancer that arises from pigment-producing melanocytes. Skin cancers develop when damaged skin cells grow out of control, usually because of the effects of sun exposure.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, making up nearly half of all diagnosed cases of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). There are two main groups of skin cancer: nonmelanoma skin cancer, the most common type of skin cancer, and melanoma (sometimes referred to as "malignant melanoma") skin cancer.
 
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common forms of nonmelanoma skin cancers. These types of cancer start in the skin's basal cell layer or squamous cell layer. Men are at higher risk than women for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
 
Melanoma is the least common but most aggressive of the three most common types of skin cancer. Melanoma originates in the skin's melanocytes -- the cells that produce pigment, or melanin. Melanoma typically appears in or around a mole, but it may also develop on clear skin. It may be a flat, brown, black or tan spot or a raised bump. Unlike a noncancerous mole, melanoma often is irregularly shaped.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.