Cancer Types | Skin Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

Studies show the number of skin cancer cases in the U.S. are growing at an alarming rate. In fact, 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, an aggressive form of skin cancer, is much less prevalent but is the deadliest type.

Key Facts

  • An estimated 106,110 new cases of invasive melanoma (penetrating the dermis or the skin’s 2nd layer) will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021, with 7,180 deaths expected to result from the diagnosis.
  • Melanoma accounts for less than 1% of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
  • The 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.
  • The estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99% in the U.S. The survival rate falls to 66% when the disease reaches surrounding tissue or lymph nodes and 27% when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.
Sources: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2021; 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 website 2021
Skin Cancer Location
106110
new cases of invasive melanoma expected in 2021
7180
deaths expected in 2021
27
% 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

High Fiber Diet May Aid Melanoma Treatment

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.

Detecting Skin Cancer with Artificial Intelligence and Other Game-Changing Technologies in Cancer

Cases of skin cancer are skyrocketing. In the past three decades, more people have been diagnosed with some form of skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Because of this, researchers worldwide have been fascinated with figuring out how to better detect and treat skin cancer. The fascination has launched some of the world’s brightest scientists into innovation overdrive. The result? Artificial Intelligence to detect skin cancer.  Artificial Intelligence and Cancer Artificial Intelligence (AI) involves teaching technology to do tasks previously done by humans. It can be an Alexa device telling a joke, Google Home turning the lights on or off, or something more complex like analyzing medical data. Typically, information like X-Rays or CT scans would be read, reviewed, and analyzed by medical teams to identify abnormalities. Today, AI is used to quickly translate an image into data, compare that data against a more extensive set of normal and abnormal images, and produce a quantitative assessment of potential abnormalities. This method not only reduces the chance of human error but speeds up the process tenfold. Fewer errors and quicker diagnoses mean a far better chance of treating cancer in an early stage.  Innovative Cancer Technologies While the use of AI feels exceptionally futuristic, innovative technology has been emerging from the cancer field for years. In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a bright pink liquid known as 5-ALA for brain cancer treatment. This drink, often referred to as ‘pink drink,’ is a surgical intervention drug given to brain cancer patients ahead of their surgeries. The pink drink makes brain tumor cells illuminate a hot pink color under fluorescent light when paired with the right technology.  Previous treatment for brain cancer was resection of the tumor. However, physicians alone were historically insufficient or incompletely identified tumor tissue during surgery, which led to recurrence and the abysmal survival rate of 1-2 years on average. Aided by the brilliant pink hues induced by 5-ALA, doctors can now remove and identify significantly more of the tumor.  In 2020, an NFCR funded team of renowned researchers explored how technology could improve treatment outcomes for patients with T-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Before this study, professionals agreed that a molecule called fenretinide would, in theory, be able to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, it was seemingly impossible to deliver this molecule to cancer cells because it is poorly soluble in water. The NFCR-funded research team developed a unique delivery system to solve this issue, thus improving outcomes for lymphoma patients.  Accelerating Promising Cancer Research It is discoveries like these launch medical professionals forward towards finding a cure for cancers. NFCR proudly presents the Salisbury Award Competition, which helps oncology startups accelerate their findings to benefit the cancer community. This program offers a unique opportunity for other promising research deemed high-risk, high-impact ideas, a core value of NFCR’s.  NFCR will host the fourth Salisbury Award Competition later this year, with applications opening in March to academic laboratories advancing promising experimental cancer therapeutic, diagnostic, detection, and vaccine innovations.  Learn more about the Salisbury Award or apply to the program here.   Additional Reads You May Enjoy:  Salisbury Award: Providing […]