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Causes of Skin Cancer

Author: Ioannes Salamanes

Editor: Ken Saito and Kira Tian

Artist: Kimberly Arinton

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States? By the age of 70, one out of five Americans will develop skin cancer. Thankfully, it can be cured if diagnosed in its early stages, when it is still relatively easy for dermatologists to eliminate it with little to no scarring. A very aggressive and rare form of skin cancer, melanoma forms in the melanocytes (cells that produce melanin that gives our skin pigment). Melanoma, with its life-threatening effects, can become increasingly difficult to treat the longer it goes unnoticed.

When one of the three types of cells that form skin reproduces abnormally in the epidermis—the outermost layer of skin—skin cancer develops. This brings the added risk of these cells metastasizing, meaning that they spread to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system. Most skin cancer cases cause exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light: UV rays from the sun or even tanning beds can damage the skin’s DNA when it is not protected. When the DNA is