In Vermont, melanoma is the fifth most common cancer diagnosed in men and women, and we see a higher rate of incidence here than the rest of the U.S. While skin cancer affects people of all age groups, it is one of the most common cancers among individuals age 20-49.
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. If left unchecked, these cancer cells can spread from the skin into other tissues and organs. Skin cancers are classified by the types of epidermal cells involved:
- Basal cell carcinoma develops from abnormal growth of the cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis. It is the most common type of skin cancer and is easily treated if detected early since it does not spread through the blood or lymph nodes.
- Squamous cell carcinoma involves changes in the squamous cells, found in the middle layer of the epidermis. This type of skin cancer is also treatable if caught early, and is slightly more like to spread than basal cell carcinomas.
- Melanoma occurs in the melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) and is less common than squamous or basal cell carcinoma, but more dangerous. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease, and if not detected early can spread through the blood or lymph nodes to other tissues and organs.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Any suspicious mole, sore, or skin growth should be looked at by a physician immediately. You should take seriously any changes in a mole or any sudden growth on the skin. See your primary care provider or consult a dermatologist.
For more information on skin cancer and treatment options, visit the following sites:
American Cancer Society:
National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/melanoma
Skin Cancer Foundation: www.skincancer.org