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What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is more common than all other cancer types combined, with more than 5.4 million skin cancers diagnosed each year in the United States. Skin cancer occurs when abnormal cells develop in the skin, and start to grow out of control creating cancer.


There are several types of skin cancers, but the two main types of malignant cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

  • Basal Cell - Basal cell carcinoma is a slow-growing cancer found in the base of the epidermis that accounts for about 90% of all skin cancers. It seldom spreads, but if left untreated can invade bone and other tissues under the skin.
  • Squamous Cell - Squamous cell carcinoma is found on the surface of the skin. It can be more aggressive, can grow deep below the skin and spread to distant areas of the body.
  • Melanoma – Melanoma is a cancer growing from the cells that produce pigment in the skin. This is typically a very aggressive type of skin cancer, and often spreads to distant areas of the body before symptoms have developed.
  • Merkel Cell – Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare skin cancer developing from the deep layer of the skin. This aggressive cancer is usually found in patients with a weakened immune system, or with a long history of exposure to sunlight.


Skin cancers often appear as an abnormal area or growth of the skin. Suspicious areas may look “pearly”, red, dark (black/brown), or purple-blue in color. You may notice bleeding, scaling, scabbing, or a non-healing area, which are other possible symptoms of skin cancer. Skin lesions that are concerning should have a biopsy for further investigation.


Skin cancer is preventable, with proper precautions. We encourage you to use proper sun protection, including sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher), UV protective clothing, and broad-brimmed hats when outside in the sun. Please try to avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun is most intense. Reapply your sunscreen often when outdoors. Avoid skin burns, tanning, and UV tanning beds. See your physician for a professional skin exam once yearly, or sooner if you have a new area you find concerning.

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"From my first visit, I was confident the team at Alliance Cancer Care was going to use leading protocols to treat my cancer. I felt safe, cared for, and listened to when I had questions. Being close to home was key for me and my family so they could be with me throughout each appointment and treatment, Alliance made this possible."
- Stephanie D.