Cancer Facts

Skin Cancer

Each year, more than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with the most common forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These 2 diseases are most often grouped as non-melanoma skin cancers.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 1.3 million new cases of non-melanoma skin cancers will be diagnosed in the United States this year, making these 2 combined, the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Most people who are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancers are age 50+, but because these diseases often result from too much exposure to the sun, everyone -- even the youngest toddlers -- should take precautions against them.

Sunlight and Exposure

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the single greatest cause of skin cancer, and the risk increases even more in the case of a sunburn or blistering from overexposure. Other, less common causes of skin cancer include repeated exposure to x-rays, coal tar, arsenic, and other industrial compounds. Sunlight is beneficial and even necessary to life and good health, but tanning and burning, are not among those benefits -- and there is no such thing as a "healthy tan."

Over the past decade, researchers have discovered that the natural tanning response begins only after DNA in skin cells has already been damaged by exposure to sunlight. Although the exact wavelengths and timing of the solar radiation associated with different types of skin cancer are under investigation, the basic preventive lesson remains the same: protect your skin from the sun. Fortunately there are ways to prevent most non-melanoma skin cancers, and to detect them early when they do arise. When treated early, the vast majority of these cancers are curable.


The lifetime melanoma risk for the average American is 1 in 50. A combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle can predispose some people more so than others, to the development of melanoma.

Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults (age 25-29) and the second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults (age 15-29).

Every 8 minutes, someone in the United States is diagnosed with melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in humans worldwide. In the United States, it accounts for more than 80% of all skin cancers. This type of cancer most commonly occurs on the face, neck and hands - and parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun. The majority of basal cell carcinomas are successfully treated with current therapies.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma arises in the upper layers of the epidermis, usually in places that have been exposed to the sun. They account for about 20% of skin cancers in the United States. Squamous cell carcinomas have an excellent cure rate when detected early.

This information was sourced from the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's and the Melanoma Research Foundation's website. Additional information on the dangers of sun tanning, and artificial tanning beds can be found online at The National Cancer Institute.