The skin is the body’s largest organ. Its job is to protect internal organs against damage, heat and infection. The skin is also the most exposed organ to sunlight and other forms of harmful ultraviolet rays.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, 104,930 new cases of skin cancer (excluding basal and squamous cell) will be diagnosed in the United States this year. These cancers can usually be cured. In addition, 97,610 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2023. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. More than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed annually and many could be prevented by protecting skin from excessive sun exposure.
Basal cell carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer, and is very curable. This cancer begins in the outer layer of skin (epidermis). Basal cell cancer rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy is very effective for treating basal cell cancers that have not spread elsewhere. Other common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and cryosurgery.
Squamous cell carcinoma: The second most common type of skin cancer. This cancer also begins in the epidermis. Radiation therapy can be used to treat squamous cell cancers that start on the skin and sometimes nearby lymph nodes with or without surgery. Other common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy and cryotherapy.
Melanoma: The most serious skin cancer; it begins in skin cells called melanocytes that produce skin color (melanin). Radiation therapy is used mostly for melanomas that started in another part of the body (metastases). It is used to treat areas where doctors think the disease may spread, such as the lymph nodes. Melanoma is usually treated first with surgery and may be followed by chemotherapy, radiation therapy and biologic therapy.
Merkel cell carcinoma: A rare skin cancer that develops between the dermis and epidermis. This cancer often requires treatment with a combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.