Skin Cancer

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It is also one of the most preventable and highly treatable type of cancers when caught early. 

Skin cancers are usually grouped in three main types: 

  • Basal cell carcinoma,
  • Squamous cell carcinoma, and
  • Melanoma.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are more common than melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

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These risk factors may increase your chances for developing skin cancer:

  • Personal and/or family history of skin cancer.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure from the sun or other sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps.
  • A lighter natural skin color or skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily or becomes painful in the sun.
  • Certain types and a large number of moles.

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Unlike other types of cancer, you can see skin cancers. This makes it easier to detect them early. 

Skin cancer appears on the body in many different ways. A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. Other signs are:

  • Changing mole or mole that looks different from others, dome-shaped growth;
  • Scaly patch;
  • Brown or black streak under a nail; and/or
  • Non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns.

Screening helps detect cancer earlier. Check your skin regularly for any new or abnormal moles or other growths. If you notice new or suspicious spots on your skin, or if anything changes, itches or bleeds, see a healthcare provider. 

Perform a skin self-exam by:

  • Examining your body in a full-length mirror.
  • Looking at your underarms, forearms and palms.
  • Examining your neck and scalp using a hand mirror.
  • Examining your back and buttocks using a hand mirror.

Talk to your healthcare provider about when to start and how often to get screened.

Find Skin Cancer Early

Know your A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma:

Melanoma ABCDEs Description


One half of a mole or birthmark does not look like the other.


The edges are irregular, ragged or poorly defined.


The color is not the same all over. It may include different shades of brown or black. It may have patches of pink, red, white or blue.


The spot is larger than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser). But some melanomas can be smaller.


The mole changes in size, shape or color.

Treatment is usually most successful when cancer is detected early. 

Melanoma treatment options include:

  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy

Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are highly curable when treated early. Several methods of treatment include:

  • Surgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Tissue destruction by electric current
  • Radiation therapy

Skin Cancer in North Carolina

There were 3,037 new cases of melanoma identified in North Carolina in 2018 and 290 deaths in 2019. North Carolina ranks 17th in new cases of melanoma in the United States.

NC Cancer Resource Hub

Tips to Reduce Your Risk

  • Seek shade when appropriate. The sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you, seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing. Choose a lightweight long-sleeve shirt, pants and wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Use sunscreen. Apply broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Use sunscreen whenever you are outside, even on cloudy days. Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
  • Avoid tanning beds. The ultraviolet lights from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging. Just one indoor session can increase your risk of developing:
    • Melanoma by 20%
    • Squamous cell carcinoma by 67%
    • Basal cell carcinoma by 29%
  • Know your family health history, including skin cancer.