Skin neoplasms are skin growths with differing causes and varying degrees of malignancy. The three most common malignant skin cancers are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma, each of which is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises. Skin cancer generally develops in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), so a tumor can usually be seen. This means that it is often possible to detect skin cancers at an early stage. Unlike many other cancers, including those originating in the lung, pancreas, and stomach, only a small minority of those affected will actually die of the disease, though it can be disfiguring. Melanoma survival rates are poorer than for non-melanoma skin cancer, although when melanoma is diagnosed at an early stage, treatment is easier and more people survive.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer. Melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers combined are more common than lung, breast, colorectal, and prostate cancer. Melanoma is less common than both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, but it is the most serious — for example, in the UK there were over 11,700 new cases of melanoma in 2008, and over 2,000 deaths. It is the second most common cancer in young adults aged 15-34 in the UK. Most cases are caused by over-exposure to UV rays from the sun or sunbeds. Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common skin cancers. The majority of these are basal cell carcinomas. These are usually localized growths caused by excessive cumulative exposure to the sun and do not tend to spread.
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