Skin Cancer Experiences: Melanoma and Other Types

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting 3.4 million Americans every year.1 As you may know, there are three common forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Other types of skin cancer (such as Cutaneous Lymphoma, merkel cell carcinoma, and Kaposi sarcoma) make up less than 1% of all skin cancers.2 To learn more about the conditions that affect our skin cancer community, we asked community members what type of skin cancer they’ve experienced. In part 3 of this series, we’re sharing what the community had to say about melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

I’ve experienced melanoma

“Three melanomas”

“Melanoma 3c”

“Melanoma 1a”

“Stage IV metastatic melanoma”

“Melanoma on my side 22 years ago”

“My husband, 1 1/2 years ago, melanoma on the back of his ear and 1 lymph node. All removed! So far, so good!”

“Malignant melanoma”

“My daughter has had 2 moles that were melanoma!”

Melanoma (sometimes called malignant melanoma) is the third most common form of skin cancer; approximately 87,000 cases are diagnosed every year. Although melanoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma tumors are more likely to metastasize than BCC and SCC. Over 80% of melanomas are diagnosed before they have metastasized, and can usually be treated with surgical removal.3 Once melanoma has spread (known as Stage IV melanoma, metastasized melanoma, or advanced melanoma), it can be more difficult to treat, but there are several treatment options available.3

Staging Melanoma

Like squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma is staged using the TNM staging system, and sometimes the Clark level system. There are many possible assigned stages for melanoma, such as Stage 1A, Stage 1B, Stage IIA, Stage IIB, etc. Most often, melanomas assigned to a lower stage have better rates of long-term cure and survival. Like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the best way to prevent development or recurrence of melanoma is to limit UV exposure.4

Coping with Melanoma

If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, or are supporting a loved one after diagnosis, it can be difficult to cope with frequent self-skin exams, staying out of the sun, and general stress. To cope with these concerns and better manage your disease, we encourage you to connect with local or online support groups for help.

I’ve experienced a different type of skin cancer

“Pleomorphic t-cell lymphoma”

“Precancerous spots on chest and face”

“Cutaneous t-cell lymphoma”

While skin cancers such as merkel cell carcinoma, Kaposi sarcoma, cutaneous lymphoma, and cutaneous adnexal tumors are much less common, some of our community members have experienced these types of cancers. These rare skin cancers develop in different cells, require different treatment, and have different risk factors than the majority of skin cancers.4 To learn more about rare skin cancers, or to share your experience, we encourage you check out our skin cancer stories.

Precancerous lesions

Some of our community members have also experienced precancerous lesions (sometimes referred to as precancerous spots), which include actinic keratosis and atypical moles.5 Actinic keratosis lesions typically appear on areas that have been exposed to the sun, and are more common in people with fair skin, freckles, blonde or red hair, and blue, green, or grey eyes.6 While cryotherapy is the most common treatment for actinic keratosis, there are many treatment options available based on the location and number of lesions. During their lifetime, 1 in 10 Americans will have an atypical mole, but they are more common in people with a family history of atypical moles.7 Atypical moles can be biopsied and/or removed if cancer is suspected, but your doctor may also recommend carefully monitoring an atypical mole rather than removing it immediately.5

Life after a skin cancer diagnosis

No matter what type of skin cancer you’ve experienced, you may have questions or concerns about life after a skin cancer diagnosis. If you have concerns about how skin cancer can impact your life, we encourage you to reach out to your health care provider. For anyone affected by skin cancer, you can also connect with the skin cancer community, share your story, and empower yourself with the knowledge you need to manage your condition.

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