• Consumer Health: Treating skin cancer

a young girl sitting on the side of a swimming pool with an adult man, perhaps her father, putting sunscreen on her

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn more about treating skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands and legs. But skin cancer also can form on areas that rarely see the light of day, including your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.

Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. However, having less pigment in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you're much more likely to develop skin cancer than a person with darker skin.

Treatment for skin cancer and the precancerous skin lesions known as actinic keratoses varies, depending on the size, type, depth and location of the lesions. Small skin cancers limited to the surface of the skin may not require treatment beyond an initial skin biopsy that removes the entire growth. If additional treatment is needed, your health care provider's recommendations may include freezing, excisional surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and photodynamic therapy.

Here's what you need to know about treating skin cancer.

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