Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer. About one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime.

Skin cancers are serious but treatable, although some can be deadly. When diagnosed early, the five-year survival rate for people with skin cancer is 99%.

Types of Skin Cancer

The most common skin cancers are nonmelanoma skin cancers, the most common being basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Much less common is melanoma, which affects about 1% of skin cancer patients but accounts for most deaths.

Risk Factors

You need to know the skin cancer risk factors and take steps to avoid the ones you can.

Be aware, however, that having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get skin cancer, and people with no risk factors can get skin cancer.

Common risk factors include:

  • Age – Risk increases with age, especially in men
  • Damaged skin (scars, burns, inflammation)
  • Family history
  • Fair skin and light hair
  • Gender – Skin cancer is most prevalent in men, but women’s risk is higher before age 50.
  • Moles
  • Previous personal history of skin cancer
  • Previous radiation treatment
  • Smoking
  • Sunburn
  • Tanning beds
  • Weakened immune system

Signs and Symptoms

The best way to catch skin cancer is with regular self-examination.

Signs and symptoms to look for include sores that don’t heal and moles that present the following:

  • Discomfort, such as itching, pain or tenderness
  • Bleeding, oozing or becomes crusty
  • Change in appearance, such as turning red or swelling at the edges

A good way to help you determine to see your provider is to follow the ABCDE rules:

  • Asymmetry. One half of the mole doesn’t match the other half.
  • Border irregularity. The edges are not well defined.
  • Color. The mole has different colors or changes color.
  • Diameter. The mole is bigger than 6 millimeters in diameter.
  • Evolving. The mole is changing in size, shape or color.

Make sure to report and discuss any such changes with your primary care provider.


You will meet with our OSF HealthCare multidisciplinary team that includes specialists in dermatology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and surgery.

You will discuss options with them to determine the treatment best suited for you.

Our team will help you develop a survivorship plan and work with you through necessary follow-up and rehabilitation so that you can focus on recovery.

OSF HealthCare offers a full range of treatment options. Depending on the type of skin cancer you have, those options may include:

  • Surgery
  • Topical medication
  • UV therapy

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