Skin cancer forms in the tissues of the skin. There are several types of skin cancer. Cancer that forms in melanocytes (skin cells that make pigment) is called melanoma. Cancer that forms in the lower part of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) is called basal cell carcinoma. Cancer that forms in squamous cells (flat cells that form the surface of the skin) is called squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer that forms in neuroendocrine cells (cells that release hormones in response to signals from the nervous system) is called neuroendocrine carcinoma of the skin. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common. Melanoma is less common than squamous or basal cell carcinoma, but is more dangerous. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease. If left untreated, cancer cells can spread from the skin into other tissues and organs. Fair complexion, older age, genetics and excess sun exposure all play a part in increasing risk of developing skin cancer. Most skin cancers form in older people on parts of the body exposed to the sun or in those with weakened immune systems. Different types of skin cancer require different treatment approaches. Surgical removal of the cancer is very common. Minimising sun exposure is the best way to prevent skin damage, including many types of skin cancer.
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