Background

Skin cancer is the most common of all al cancers. In 2005 an estimated 1.3 million cases were diagnosed in the United States. The number of new skin cancer cases is approximately equal to the total number of new case of all other cancers combined. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma are the most common types of skin cancer. Of these, melanoma is the deadliest by far, increasing at the epidemic rate of nearly 4% per year. Indeed, among women 25-29 years old, it is the most common cause of cancer death. At the current rates, one in every 67 Americans has a lifetime risk of developing invasive melanoma. In addition to the estimated 59,000 case of invasive melanoma in the U.S. this year, approximately 34,000 noninvasive cases will be diagnosed.

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Both Basal cell and Squamous cell carcinoma have a better than 95% cure rate if detected and treated early. Malignant melanoma in its earliest stages is similarly almost totally curable. Once it has advanced however, the cure drops to below 17%. Thus melanoma causes more than 75% of all skin cancer deaths.

In 2005 there were an estimated 7900 deaths due to melanoma.

Skin cancer though is largely a preventable disease.

Most sun damage occurs in the first eighteen years of life when skin exposure to harmful ultraviolet light is greatest and when preventive measures are least employed due mostly to inadequate public awareness.  Many in the high-risk and at-risk population are either uninsured, underinsured or lack reliable health care information. To compound the problem there is insufficient training of primary care providers to adequately diagnose skin cancers at the stage at which they are most treatable. A CDC study showed that a majority of primary car physicians are not comfortable with giving these diagnoses. Lastly, teachers and the community-at-large are ill prepared to influence unhealthy behaviors and promote such practices as the use of sunscreens, shaded areas, and the avoidance of tanning salons.