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What is the success rate for common skin cancer if it is diagnosed early?

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You probably already know that the earlier that skin cancer is detected and diagnosed, the better the prognosis generally is. What exactly that means regarding the three types of skin cancer might motivate you further to get to know your skin and observe it carefully. Read on to find out more.

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. Risk factors are a high exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, arsenic, and an overall poor immune system. As the name suggests, this type of skin cancer grows from the skin's basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis. It usually presents as a raised area of skin traversed by small blood vessels or ulcerations.


BCC rarely ever metastasizes. Only in extremely rare cases does it spread beyond the original tumour site and possess the potential to become life-threatening. Still, it should be treated quickly and professionally, as it does grow locally and, in the process, destroys tissue which may result in nerve damage. The recommended procedure is surgical removal.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second most common form of skin cancer presents as an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells originating from the squamous cells of the skin’s outermost layer (epidermis). It can resemble a scaly red sore, a wart or an elevated skin growth that dips in the middle. Most cases are easily treatable, however this form of skin cancer is more likely to grow invasively and metastasize than BCC. Most SSCs are found early and thus can be cured. In cases that have a high risk for a recurrence of the cancer, the affected skin is usually removed and 97% of cases are cured through Mohs surgery.


These numbers make it clear that catching SCC before it spreads is vital, as metastasized SCC can be hard to treat. Like BCC, SCC cases are not reported to cancer registries, making it difficult to estimate survival rates. Observations of larger groups of people suffering from distant metastatic SCC show that roughly 70% of patients do not survive their disease, so early treatment is essential.


This less common form of skin cancer is also the most vicious, as it is more likely to spread onto other organs and reach deep skin layers. It develops from unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (usually caused by ultraviolet radiation) which then sets off mutations. If melanoma is caught early, it is curable in most cases. The treatment involves a wide excision, meaning that the affect skin and a relatively wide surrounding area are removed.


The prognosis is largely dependent on when the treatment begins. If the melanoma is still localized, meaning it has not spread, the 5 year survival rate is roughly 98%. If the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes, something that is called regional melanoma, the 5 year survival rate drops down to 62%.

As always, early detection is vital and making an appointment at your local SunDoctors clinic should be done sooner rather than later.

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