Cancer Types | Skin Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

Over the past three decades, more people have been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer (most of which are nonmelanoma or basal and squamous cell skin cancers) than all other cancers combined. Melanoma, the aggressive form of skin cancer, accounts for 1% of skin cancer cases but the vast majority of skin cancer fatalities.

Key Facts

  • In 2023 in the U.S., 97,610 new cases of invasive melanoma (penetrating the dermis or the skin’s 2nd layer) are estimated, and 7,990 deaths expected.
  • Overall lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 2.6% (1 in 38) for Caucasians, 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for African Americans, and 0.6% (1 in 167) for Hispanics.
  • Estimated five-year survival rate for early-stage melanoma is about 99% in the U.S; 71% when the cancer reaches surrounding tissue or lymph nodes; and 32% when it metastasizes to distant organs.
  • Several types of immunotherapy can be used to treat melanoma and help patients live longer
  • For the rare and fatal nonmelanoma skin cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), immunotherapy is also helping patients live longer

Risks for Melanoma

  • Exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) light – sunlight or tanning beds or lights
  • Moles – having many moles
  • Dysplastic nevus syndrome – have many atypical dysplastic nevi moles (some features or melanoma)
  • Fair skin, freckling, and light hair
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Age – melanoma more likely to occur in older people but it is one of most common cancers in those under 30 years (particularly women)
  • Men have higher rate of melanoma but varies by age
Sources: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2023; the Society’s website; and The Skin Cancer Foundation

Signs and Symptoms

A symptom is a change in the body that a person can see and/or feel. A sign is a change that the doctor sees during an examination or on a laboratory test result. If you have any of the symptoms below, it does not mean you have cancer but you should see your doctor or health care professional so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed.

For Melanoma

  • A is for Asymmetry:One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border:The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color:The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter:The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving:The mole is changing in size, shape, or color

Other signs of melanoma that don’t fit the ABCDE signs include:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
  • Change in surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or appearance of a lump or bump
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2023; the Society’s website
Skin Cancer Location
new cases of invasive melanoma expected in 2023
deaths expected in 2023
% five-year survival rate with metastasis
Black Skin Cancer Ribbon

Skin Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in May. To help accelerate cures please make a gift today.

Researchers Working on Skin Cancer

Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.
Danny R. Welch, Ph.D.
Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Paul Fisher, M.Ph., Ph.D.
Dr. Web Cavenee
Web Cavenee, Ph.D.
Helmut Sies, M.D.
Helmut Sies, M.D.

Related Content

5 Tips to Help Prevent Melanoma

Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer as it could quickly spread to other organs and become an untreatable disease. New treatment options such as immunotherapy may help control some patients’ melanoma metastasis, but in most cases, metastatic melanoma still causes many death of patients each year. Prevention is better than treatment. The best way to keep skin cancers away is to prevent them from happening. To do that, people could take multiple actionable steps. The most crucial one is to avoid over-exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Experts believe that 90% of all melanomas are caused by UV radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices.  By following the five tips described below, you can easily practice the sun-safety measures to prevent over-exposure to UV rays while enjoying your outdoor activities during the summertime. Tip 1: Seek Shade Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tip 2: Wear Sun-protective Clothing Wear a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection when possible. For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label and ensure it is tightly woven. Tip 3: Apply Sunscreen Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Tip 4: Avoid Indoor Tanning Salons Research has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Even one indoor tanning session can increase users’ risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by 29%. Tip 5: Examine Skin Regularly An essential step in skin cancer prevention is regular screenings. Dermatologists can assess and recommend how often a person needs a skin exam based on each person’s risk factors. It is recommended that individuals with a family history of melanoma or other skin cancers should have a full-body exam at least once a year. Another beneficial habit is monthly skin self-exams to check for new or changing moles. Approximately half of the melanomas are self-detected. According to the National Cancer Institute, the most common signs of skin cancer include the following skin changes: A new growth on the skin A sore that does not heal A change in an old growth Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, but it is also a very preventable illness. By following these five tips and taking those steps described above, your risk of getting melanoma and other types of skin cancer could be significantly reduced. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Melanoma 101: What You Need to Know Young Adults and Cancer: What You Need to Know 9 Must-Know Facts About Sunscreen

High Fiber Diet May Aid Melanoma Treatment

Fiber is an essential nutrient in the realm of cancer prevention. It does not break down through digestion and helps maintain bowel health and prevent cancers, including colorectal cancer. However, recent studies have also found that fiber may also be an essential nutrient for cancer treatment. Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and the Center for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute found that a high-fiber diet may help melanoma patients respond better to immunotherapy treatments. The high-fiber diet influences the gut microbiome, which impacts responsiveness. Immunotherapy in Cancer Treatment Immunotherapy is a game-changing treatment option for cancer patients. Medical professionals utilize the body's natural immune system defense to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Immunotherapy has quickly become the most promising path to successfully treating cancer. The study found that melanoma patients undergoing immunotherapy treatment who ate more fiber-rich foods such as whole grains, and fresh produce survived longer without cancer growth than patients with insufficient dietary fiber intake. The researchers noted that patients who consumed at least 20 grams of dietary fiber each day survived the longest without their disease progressing. These significant findings have the potential to save countless lives. The research also offers a launchpad to explore other ways diet may impact immunotherapy effectiveness. NFCR Support for Immunotherapy Research The best part? Eating a heavy fiber diet is easier than ever. Follow National Foundation for Cancer Research's (NFCR) Cancer-Fighting Lifestyle YouTube channel for healthy recipes packed with fiber, or check out their blog with monthly recipes and tips. Additionally, NFCR funds several renowned researchers who have dedicated years to understanding and improving immunotherapy, including: Paul Fisher, Web Cavenee, Rakesh Jain, Laurence Cooper, and Xiang-Lei Yang. Thanks to these dedicated researchers, NFCR is leading the way in immunotherapy research and encouraging researchers across the globe to join in its mission of pursuing the most promising path to cures for cancer patients. You can support progressive projects like this and join NFCR on its mission of bringing an end to the burden of cancer with a gift today! Additional Reads You May Enjoy: Early Detection Tools Saving Time and Saving Lives Efficiently Eliminating Metastasized Melanoma Cells The World’s First Oncolytic Virus Drug was Launched to Treat Malignant Brain Tumor GBM Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.

Efficiently Eliminating Metastasized Melanoma Cells

The prevalence of skin cancer is rising at an alarming rate, with melanoma being the deadliest. Melanoma is renowned for quickly spreading to other organs (or metastasizing), drastically decreasing the likelihood of survival. Being able to stop the spread of melanoma cells is essential to save the lives of many patients; however, no researcher has been able to solve the puzzle – until now. With long-term support from the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), Dr. Daniel Haber and his team developed the CTC-iChip – a medical device to capture the few circulating tumor cells (CTCs) present in a standard blood sample from a patient. Circulating tumor cells are tumor cells that have become detached from the primary tumor and enter the blood circulation. While CTCs occur once in a billion cells and are extremely rare, they nevertheless may hold the key to metastasis—the stage responsible for most cancer deaths. Dr. Haber and his team developed methods to analyze the genes in CTCs, providing a liquid biopsy and an invaluable window into a patient’s cancer in real-time. Doctors may efficiently obtain critical information from their patient’s CTCs for life-saving treatment decisions in advanced cancer with the liquid biopsy. Though this significant breakthrough sparked excitement throughout the oncology world, Dr. Haber continued digging for more pieces to the puzzle. He honed in on the unique makeup of CTCs to understand what fueled the spread of these deadly cells and what inhibited it. Using samples from melanoma patients, the team found that the unique lipogenesis regulator (referred to as SREBP2) held an important role in combating the growth of CTCs. SREBP2 directly induces transcription of the iron carrier, which kicks off a chain reaction at a cellular level. This chain reaction causes resistance to ferroptosis inducers, a type of programmed cell death. The ability to manufacture these chain reactions within CTCs opens up a realm of therapeutic opportunities for patients with metastatic melanoma. While this discovery is highly significant in the war on cancer, it is only just the beginning of understanding how to reduce melanoma metastasis. Dr. Haber remains committed to solving more pieces of the puzzle. To support the work of Dr. Haber and other world-renowned researchers, please make a gift today. Additional Reads You May Enjoy: New Drug Makes Unresectable or Metastatic Ocular Cancer Treatable Catching Cancer Cells on Their Way to Spreading Detecting Skin Cancer with Artificial Intelligence and Other Game-Changing Technologies in Cancer Stay connected with the cancer community! Receive NFCR’s monthly e-newsletter and blogs featuring stories of inspiration, support resources, cancer prevention tips, and more. Sign up here.