What Are the Causes of Skin Cancer?
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Skin Cancer Facts

Published on Feb 06, 2018 and last reviewed on Jul 11, 2023   -  5 min read


Skin cancer is a serious and deadly disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is the most common type of skin cancer. Read the article to know more.

Skin Cancer Facts


The skin is an organ that protects the body against the harmful effects of sunlight, infection, and injury and helps regulate body temperature and moisture. Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of skin cells, forming a tumorous mass. It can be either benign (where the tumor can grow but not spread to other organs) or malignant (which can spread to other organs). If it is detected early, it can be treated quickly with less scarring. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. More than five million cases are diagnosed each year. Anyone can develop skin cancer. Certain factors, such as a family history of skin cancer and exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun can increase the risk of cancer. Prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer. This can be achieved by using sunscreen and avoiding excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Regular skin checks can help in the detection of any skin changes that may indicate skin cancer. The article discusses essential facts about skin cancer, including the different types of skin cancer, its risk factors, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and prevention.

What Are the Types of Skin Cancer?

Three main types of skin cancer are as follows:

  1. Basal Cell Carcinoma: It is the most common type of skin cancer. It appears as raised, pink, scaly patch on the skin. Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and rarely spread to other body parts.

  2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma: It is the second most common type of skin cancer that appears as raised, red, scaly patch on the skin. If left untreated, it can spread to other body parts.

  3. Melanoma: It is the less common and deadliest type of skin cancer. Melanoma appears as a dark brown or black mole with irregular borders. It can spread quickly to other body parts.

What Are the Causes of Skin Cancer?

The causes of skin cancer are as follows:

What Are the Risk Factors of Skin Cancer?

Several factors can increase an individual risk of developing skin cancer, including:

  • Exposure to UV (ultraviolet) radiation.

  • Being fair-skinned.

  • Certain skin conditions.

  • A family history of skin cancer.

  • Elderly population.

  • Having many moles in the body, especially dysplastic nevi.

  • History of sunburns.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?

Depending on the type of skin cancer, the appearance can vary greatly. Look out for the following warning signs.

  • A non-healing sore that started as a patch or rash.

  • A growth that itches, bleeds easily, and crusts over.

  • Change in shape and size of existing marks or discolorations.

  • Formation of ulcers, rough, and scaly areas that may bleed or ooze.

  • Lesions that are painful, tender, or itchy.

  • Red, translucent bumps that are shiny and pearly.

  • A raised area with a central lump.

How Can Skin Cancer Be Diagnosed?

In case a physician spot a suspicious-looking sore on the skin, then a dermatologist who can make a diagnosis based on its characteristic appearance alone. Skin cancer diagnosis involves a combination of a physical examination and various tests. The diagnostic tests are as follows:

  • Skin Examination: A healthcare professional will examine the skin and look for any suspicious moles or other skin growths.

  • Imaging Tests: The tests include Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computed tomography (CT) scans, and X-rays are used to determine if cancer has spread beyond the skin.

  • Blood Tests: The doctor may prescribe a blood test to check for markers that indicate the presence of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

  • Biopsy: The doctor may prescribe a biopsy in case of any suspicious mole or growth. The biopsy procedure involves removing a small sample of the skin for laboratory testing. If cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, the doctor may suggest a sentinel lymph node biopsy to diagnose the condition.

How Can Skin Cancer Be Treated?

The treatment of skin cancer depends on various factors such as size, stage, location, and a person's overall health. The treatment measures are as follows:

  • Surgery: The most common method of treating skin cancer is surgery. Surgery involves removing the cancerous cells from the skin by techniques such as excisional biopsy and curettage.

  • Radiation Therapy: It involves using high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to destroy cancer cells. The healthcare provider may recommend it for people who cannot have surgery or who have a high risk of reoccurrence.

  • Medications: The healthcare provider may prescribe topical medications such as Imiquimod and Fluorouracil to treat certain types of cancer. Other medications include chemotherapy and immunotherapy drugs to treat advanced cases of cancer.

How Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented?

There are several ways to prevent skin cancer are as follows:

  • Protecting Skin From the Sun: The most important way to prevent skin cancer is to protect the skin from harmful UV radiation. This can be done by wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen lotion with an SPF (sun protection factor).

  • Avoiding Tanning Beds: These emit UV radiation which can increase the risk of developing cancer.

  • Checking Skin Regularly: Regularly skin checking for any changes in existing moles, which can help in the early detection of skin cancer.

  • Avoiding Exposure to UV Radiation: Avoid unnecessary exposure to UV radiation such as from sun lamps.


Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world. It is caused due to abnormal growth of skin cells or exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or other sources. The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Prevention is the main key to reducing skin cancer. It can be done by protecting the skin from harmful radiations from the sun, avoiding tanning beds, quitting smoking, and checking the skin regularly. Early detection and treatment may prevent the further spread of skin cancer. Wearing protective clothing such as full sleeves clothes helps in reducing the risk of skin cancer.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Does Skin Cancer Present?

Skin cancer usually presents as a painless, skin-colored, or bluish-red bump on the skin, especially in sun-exposed areas like the face, scalp, lips, ears, chest, neck, arms, legs, etc.


What Are the Signs of Early Grades of Skin Cancer?

Signs of an early stage of cancer include harmless-appearing moles, skin sores, or abnormal skin masses.


How Can I Identify a Spot for Skin Cancer?

New moles or skin lumps.
- A growing mole or bump.
- A notable change in the moles or growths.
- A lesion that is increasing in size, causing itching, spontaneous bleeding, and does not recover.


Can Skin Cancer Appear Like a Scab?

Scabbing is an indicator of melanoma, formed following bleeding from a tiny, flat, or raised, multicolored area with uneven borders.


Does Skin Cancer Spread Rapidly?

Melanomas grow at a very rapid rate such that in six weeks, they metastasize and turn life-threatening. On the other hand, non-melanoma skin cancers are slow-growing. The basal cell carcinoma has the slowest rate and very rarely spread to other areas. The squamous cell carcinoma is also a slow-growing tumor but is comparatively faster than basal cell carcinoma and spreads to lymph nodes.


Can Skin Cancer Resemble a Pimple?

Basal cell carcinoma appears initially as a skin-colored, shiny bump on the skin that resembles a pimple. It may occur anywhere like hands, legs, chest, abdomen, face, etc.


What Is Confused for Skin Cancer?

- Skin lumps, spots, and scaly patches of psoriasis.
- The benign, wart-like appearance of seborrheic keratosis with similar areas of appearance like head, neck, chest, back, etc.
- Shiny bumps on the face due to trapped sebum in sebaceous hyperplasia.
- Nevus or mole.
- Reddish papules due to clustering blood vessels in cherry angioma.


Does Skin Cancer Exhibit Pain on Touching?

A mole that starts exhibiting pain and tenderness to touch is an indicator of melanoma. On the contrary, there is no pain to touch associated with other skin cancer. Therefore, a painless bump itself poses a doubt for cancer.


Can Skin Cancer Heal On Its Own?

Skin cancers have to be treated appropriately to avoid disfigurement and death. Melanomas regress by themselves because of the immune response. Still, it reverts only when it has spread to other parts like the liver, bones, brain, lungs, etc. Very rarely can keratoacanthomas shrink and go away on their own, but they grow and metastasize to other body parts in most cases.


Can Skin Cancer Make You Sick?

Swollen and painful lymph nodes, fatigue, and undefined pain are the associated symptoms of skin cancer. Sometimes, melanomas can spread to the digestive tract and cause gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting.


How Long Can Skin Cancer Be Undiagnosed?

Skin cancers can be diagnosed by visual inspection even at the initial stages after the appearance of a visible lump on the skin.


Is Chemotherapy Needed for Skin Cancer?

Topical application of anti-cancer agents is needed for skin cancers that have not spread to other parts, whereas skin cancers that have spread to other parts need systemic chemotherapy.


What Causes Skin Cancer?

- Ultraviolet rays found in sunlight.
- Exposure to chemicals.
- Immunocompromised condition.


How Can We Remove Skin Cancer?

In the case of minor skin cancers, excisional biopsy itself removes the entire growth. In large growths, the following additional procedures may be required:
- Cryosurgery.
- Mohs surgery.
- Excision.
- Curettage and electrodesiccation.
- Radiotherapy.
- Biological therapy.
- Photodynamic therapy.
- Chemotherapy.

Last reviewed at:
11 Jul 2023  -  5 min read




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