Skin Cancer

  1. What is skin cancer?

    Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer. It begins in melanocytes - cells that make the skin pigment called melanin. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting some 1 million Americans every year. The are 3 main types of skin cancer: basal cell, the most prevalent; squamous cell; and malignant melanoma.

    Basal and squamous cell cancers have a good prognosis, but are at higher risk for developing additional skin cancers. Melanoma of the skin or cutaneous malignant melanoma, the rarest but most lethal form of skin cancer, is responsible for about 3/4 of all deaths from skin cancer.

  2. What puts me at risk?

    These factors can put you at risk: exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation (UV light), skin coloring, geographic location, sunburn history, melonocytic nevi (suspicious moles), heredity, carcinogens, and age.

    For information on family history, visit:

    U.S. Surgeon General ’s Family History Initiative