What is Skin Cancer? (Definition)

Skin cancer, or the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells on the body, is the most common form of cancer. The disease occurs when DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. If you have skin cancer, it’s important to know which type you have as it affects your treatment options and your prognosis.

There are three major types of skin cancer. These include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinomas are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). BCC is the most common form of skin cancer. These cancers tend to grow slowly and are most often found in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms, but they also can occur elsewhere. They are usually very treatable. Basal cell carcinomas often appear as a painless raised area of skin that may be shiny with small blood vessel running over it or may present as a raised area with an ulcer.



Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer. Melanoma develops when DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun) triggers mutations that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. While melanoma is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths. However if the cancer is recognized and treated early, it’s generally curable. Signs of melanoma include a mole that has changed in size, shape, color, has irregular edges, has more than one color, is itchy or bleeds. Melanomas are usually brown or black, but can appear pink, tan, or even white.


Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s epidermis layer. SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. It is estimated that more than 1 million cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S.


Other rare forms of skin cancer include merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). A rare, aggressive skin cancer that is at high risk of recurring and spreading (metastasizing) throughout the body. Merkel cell carcinoma is much more likely than common skin cancers to spread to other parts of the body if not caught early, and it can be very hard to treat if it has spread. Merkel cells are found mainly at the base of the epidermis.


See below for updated news and information regarding Skin Cancer including new medical research, treatment options and advancements. 

Latest Skin Cancer News

Old drug may provide new hope to melanoma patients

(SOURCE: MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL) - A drug once used to treat diabetes may be of big benefit to skin cancer patients. The treatment of choice for Type 2 diabetes prior to the introduction of metformin, phenformin was taken off the market in 1978 due to concerns about toxicity – it heightened the risk of a fatal buildup of lactate in the ...
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Researchers explore how protein production gets distorted in skin cancer

(SOURCE: ROCKEFELLER UNIVERSITY) - Each cell in the body follows a strict protocol for manufacturing the proteins it needs to function. When a cell turns cancerous, however, its protein production goes off script. A new study led by researchers at The Rockefeller University takes a close look at one way in which this procedure goes haywire in skin cells as they turn ...
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La Roche-Posay and the George Washington University Publish Unprecedented International Study on Sun Protection Behavior and Skin Cancer Awareness

(SOURCE: GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY) - A large international survey on sun exposure behaviors and skin cancer detection found there are many imperfections and geographical inequalities in primary and secondary prevention of skin cancer. This information could help inform future awareness campaigns developed to address the global need to reduce mid- and long-term development of skin cancer.   The study was published ...
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(SOURCE: MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY) - Michigan State University researchers have discovered that a chemical compound, and potential new drug, reduces the spread of melanoma cells by up to 90 percent. The man-made, small-molecule drug compound goes after a gene’s ability to produce RNA molecules and certain proteins in melanoma tumors. This gene activity, or transcription process, causes the disease to spread ...
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Skin Cancer Research News: Topical treatment activates immune system to clear precancerous skin lesions

(SOURCE: MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL) - A combination of two FDA-approved drugs – a topical chemotherapy and an immune-system-activating compound – was able to rapidly clear actinic keratosis lesions from patients participating in a clinical trial. Standard treatment for this common skin condition, which can lead to the development of squamous cell carcinoma, takes up to a month and can elicit several unpleasant ...
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Skin Cancer Research News: Research Providing Promising New Treatments for Melanoma

(SOURCE: LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY HEALTH SCIENCES CENTER) - In a paper published online November 30, 2016, in Melanoma Management, Adam Riker, MD, Professor of Surgery and Chief of Surgical Oncology at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, reviews approaches to manage melanoma, including one tested at LSU Health New Orleans that provoked a complete response in a patient with a long ...
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Skin Cancer Treatment News: Study Shows Topical Drug Combo Effective Against Precancerous Skin Lesions

(WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE) According to a recent press release, a combination of two topical drugs that have been in use for years triggers a robust immune response against precancerous skin lesions, according to a new study. The research, from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Harvard Medical School, shows that the therapy activates the immune system's ...
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Melanoma Research News: Study Shows a Decrease in Gene P15 Can Determine if a Nevus is Transitioning to Melanoma

(UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA SCHOOL OF MEDICINE) According to a recent press release, most melanomas are driven by mutations that spur out-of-control cell replication, while nevi (moles composed of non-cancerous cells at the skin surface) harboring the same mutations do not grow wildly. However, changes in the level of gene expression can cause nevi to become melanomas ...
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Skin Cancer News: Understanding Risk Factors Could Help Catch Melanomas

(UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY) According to a recent press release, the new study, published online by JAMA Dermatology, identifies high risk patients who may benefit from tailored surveillance. The incidence of melanoma that occurs on the skin is increasing in predominantly white-skinned populations and Australia's incidence is among the highest in the world ...
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Cancer News: Researchers Discover Method to Block Certain Cancer Genetic Mutations

(UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT CHICAGO) According to a recent press release, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have identified a new way to block the action of genetic mutations found in nearly 30 percent of all cancers ...
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