The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, or BCC. Squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, is the second most common form. These are rarely life-threatening and are classified as non-melanoma skin cancers. The vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from the sun.
Approximately two percent of skin cancer cases are melanoma, but melanoma accounts for about 80 percent of skin cancer deaths. Around 9000 people die from melanoma in the United States each year. The survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor invades the dermis, is over 98 percent. Historically, melanoma is more common in males over 40 years of age than in females over 40. This may be due to the fact that men often have more exposure to UV rays because of outdoor occupations.
Studies suggest that military service members have higher rates of melanoma than civilians, and Airmen are more apt to develop skin cancer than other service members.
Skin cancer can affect anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender, and it can develop anywhere on the body. Among Caucasians, Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian populations, basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer. For African Americans and Asian Indians, squamous cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer.