Skin Cancer Archive


Daily skin care in 3 simple steps

A widely-advertised facial moisturizer claims to be the best on the market — and sells for $225 per bottle. Should you buy it? Another brand offers a complete skin care regimen — but it comes in 10 different bottles of lotions and potions that all need to be applied daily. Is it worth your time?

Despite manufacturers' claims, many cosmetic products will remove more cash from your wallet than dirt and oils from your skin. You don't need an expensive or lengthy skin care routine — and the good news is, the most effective and reliable regimen is also quick and inexpensive.

Stay ahead of skin cancer

Learn to spot an actinic keratosis before it becomes cancerous.

About 58 million people have at least one actinic keratosis (AK), a precancerous skin growth caused by too much sun exposure.

Yet most people don't see the potential danger in these lesions because they are small, with few if any annoying symptoms, and can go away almost as fast as they appear.

Zinc oxide shows no link to skin damage

In the journals

Zinc oxide (ZO) is one of the most effective ingredients in sunscreen, but previous studies have suggested it could potentially damage skin cells. Now, a small study in the February 2019 Journal of Investigative Dermatology has found that ZO nanoparticles don't penetrate the skin or damage skin on a cellular level even with repeated applications.

ZO is one of 17 active sunscreen ingredients approved by the FDA. ZO offers broad-spectrum protection and shields against both UVB rays, which cause sunburn, and UVA rays, which penetrate more deeply and are more likely to damage cell DNA and increase the risk of skin cancer.

Do all skin cancers have to be removed?

Ask the doctor

 Image: © AndreyPopov/Getty Images

Q. My doctor says I have a small skin cancer on my scalp, but it's not melanoma. Do I really need to have it removed?

A. It's true that melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer, because it can spread throughout the body. You definitely need to have any melanoma removed, to try to excise it before it spreads. Two other types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are more common than melanoma. It sounds like you have one of those. They spread only rarely, but they do grow larger. Not only is this disfiguring, but delay in removing them makes it harder to remove them with only a minimal scar. And cancers on the scalp, when they become large, can be particularly hard to remove.

Don't fall for these skin myths

Think you know a lot about skin and skin care? You might be surprised at how much "common knowledge" about keeping your skin clear and healthy is simply not true.

Here, we debunk 10 common myths about skin.

1. The right skin cream can keep your skin looking young.

What kind of sun protection is best for babies, pregnant women, and breastfeeding women?

Ask the doctors

Q. Should pregnant or breastfeeding women and their children use sunscreen?

A. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people avoid applying sunscreen to the skin of babies younger than 6 months of age, and instead shield them from the sun, keeping them in the shade as much as possible. It's also a good idea to protect them from the sun using clothing, hats, and sunglasses.

Sunscreen in a pill?

Research we're watching

The FDA is warning consumers not to buy in to the idea that a pill can protect your skin from the sun.

In a statement issued May 22, FDA officials said they've found companies selling pills that are labeled as dietary supplements and that claim to protect skin from the sun.

Save your skin from cancer

Rates of the two most common skin cancers have more than doubled over the past decade. Here's how to protect yourself.

When it comes to skin cancer, there's good news and bad news. First, the bad news. A report published in the June 2017 Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that cases of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) skin cancers have risen 263% and 145%, respectively, over the past decade.

The good news? BCC and SCC are rarely life-threatening and they're usually easy to treat if they're caught early. Plus, there are simple ways to prevent them.

Prescription cream may lower risk for repeat skin cancers

In the journals

A prescription cream called 5-fluorouracil (5-FU, sold as Adrucil and other brands) may help people reduce their risk for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), according to a study published in the Jan. 3, 2017, JAMA Dermatology. SCC, the second most common cancer in the United States, strikes twice as many men as women.

Researchers recruited 932 people, 98% of whom were men, with an average age of 71. Each had experienced at least two skin cancers — SCC, basal cell carcinoma (BCC, the most common skin cancer), or both — on their face or ears within the past five years. They were randomly assigned to receive either the 5-FU cream or a placebo cream. Everyone applied a thin layer twice a day to their face and ears for up to four weeks. Over the course of a year, the 5-FU group had a 75% lower incidence of SCC compared with the placebo group. They also had a 11% lower incidence of BCC, but this difference was not statistically significant. It's not known why 5-FU helped prevent SCC but not BCC, according to the researchers.

Melanomas don’t always arise from existing moles

In the journals

 Image: © Manuel-F-O/Thinkstock

While it's important to have any suspicious mole checked for possible skin cancer, a study published online Aug. 29, 2017, by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests most melanomas — the deadliest skin cancer — appear as new spots on the skin. The researchers reviewed 38 studies involving 20,126 cases of melanoma and found that 29% of diagnosed melanomas came from an existing mole, while 71% appeared as new spots. Moreover, they discovered that melanomas that grew from moles were thinner and thus less aggressive than other melanomas. In fact, people whose melanoma was associated with a mole had a better prognosis than others.

The study's authors stressed the importance of looking for any new spots on the skin as well as checking moles for changes, like itching or bleeding, and to see a dermatologist if needed. The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams, and to ask a partner to check hard-to-see areas like the back. You can learn how to do a skin self-exam, and much more, at

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