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Life After Cancer A Roadmap for Cancer Survivors

Non Melanoma Skin Cancers
Bernard Gordon, MD and Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD

Non-melanoma cancer probably accounts for more than 50% of all cancers; more than 1 million new cases were diagnosed in 2007.

Death is uncommon with these cancers. It is thought that between 1,000 and 2,000 people die each year from non-melanoma skin cancer. Most of those who die from this disease are elderly and were not treated soon enough.

Basal-cell carcinoma is the most common form and develops in sun-exposed areas of the face and body and looks like a pale, wax-like, or pearly nodule (lump) that may ulcerate.

It is linked to ultraviolet radiation exposure usually occurring on fair-skinned people who sunburn easily but tan poorly and people who live in a warm, sunny region.

Most basal-cell cancers are treated effectively with surgical removal; the cure rate is over 95% when treated early. It is important to use sunscreen for protection and to prevent future lesions.

Squamous-cell carcinoma occurs in the skin layer that produces protective keratin in the epidermis (top layer) and may occur anywhere on the skin - whether or not the areas have been overexposed to the sun - or on the mucous membranes. It appears as a red, scaly, raised lesion that arises on the sun-damaged skin or sites of previous burns, scars, or chronic sores.

Squamous-cell cancer is usually related to too much ultraviolet light exposure and people at risk usually are those who have fair skin and burn easily but tan poorly, and those who develop precancerous lesions such as solar keratoses.

Fortunately, when caught early, most new squamous tumors are effectively cured, but they may metastasize.

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