Of all different types of cancers, skin cancer is most common, accounting for 40% of all carcinoma diagnoses. More than 1 million nonmelanoma skin cancers are diagnosed each year, and approximately one person dies from melanoma every hour.

Most skin cancers—even melanoma, the most serious form—can be treated successfully if detected early. The American Cancer Society recommends these skin examinations every three years for people aged 20-40 years, and annually for people 40 and over. Even better than treatable, nearly all skin cancers are preventable by limiting unprotected exposure to the sun.

There are three types of skin cancers: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Statistics show that men are twice as likely to have basal cell cancers and three times more likely to have squamous cell cancers. Melanoma accounts for about 4% of all cancers in both men and women, yet it is responsible for approximately 80% of all skin cancer deaths.

Because of the protective effect of skin pigment, Caucasians are ten times more likely to develop skin cancers than African-Americans. For the same reason, the risk is especially high for people with fair skin that freckles or burns easily.

Furthermore, as a rule, any change in size, shape or color of a mole is a major warning sign and is sufficient reason to be checked by a doctor. Screening for skin cancer is simple and easy, consisting of a visual inspection called a total cutaneous examination (TCE) of the patients body by a physician. During a TCE, doctors look for moles with the abnormalities such as: large size -more than 6mm in diameter, asymmetry, irregular border, and/or an uneven color patterns.

Although early identification of melanoma is the primary goal of a TCE, this exam can also detect non-melanoma skin cancer and precancerous lesions. Adults at higher risk for melanoma should be particularly vigilant about skin cancer screening. This includes those with a family history of melanoma, adults with frequent sun exposure, those with a history of serious or frequent sunburn, especially during childhood, as well as people with more than 50 moles, or those with fair skin.

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