Updated: Sep 14, 2022
This is part one in a series on cancer and specifically, the most common cancer...see below for the answer! Also, stay tuned for more on this important topic.
This series is to honor my dad, Ronald Mitchell, who lived another 46 years after a stage IV diagnosis with 6 month prognosis. If you missed the first post where I share his personal journey and also discuss whether lifestyle affects your cancer prognosis, then you can catch that here.
Place your bets as to the most common type of cancer, final call! No, it's not breast cancer, though this rightfully gets lots of press. The correct answer to what is the most common type of cancer is skin cancer! One in five Americans will experience skin cancer at some point in their lifetime. More interesting statistics about skin cancer are that there are approximately 9,500 diagnoses of skin cancer in a day, and also more than two people die from skin cancer EVERY HOUR-so this is definitely a topic that's worth talking about!
What are the different types of skin cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancer. First, one thing to know is that when we're talking about cancer, what does that term "cancer" mean anyway? Cancer is an abnormal growth of cells in your body that's uncontrolled, meaning the process of creating new cells (which your body creates new cells every day, that is normal), but when cancer occurs it means the cell growth has gone haywire. One other important thing to consider when talking about cancer: what type of cell is growing out of control and where is it growing out of place? For example, if cells that are typically found on your skin layers are growing out of control in your lungs or brain, this is a much bigger issue than if the skin cells are growing uncontrollably on the skin of your nose. Neither is really good, but cells of a different type should not grow in places they don't normally reside.
The three main types of skin cancer-they are named according to the original cell type. The most common is basal cell carcinoma, so it's originating in a basal cell which is in the bottom layer of the epidermis or the superficial layer of the skin. Your skin replenishes itself, shredding cells every 28 days. A basal cell is responsible for cellular replacement, as in the ones that produce the new cells. If you think about it logically then it makes sense that this is the most common type as this is the source of your skin cell renewal.
The second category is squamous cell carcinoma: a squamous cell is in another type of cell that's in your epidermis. and so that's the second most common type of skin cancer. Then the third type which is the most severe and most concerning type is melanoma. A melanoma originates in your melanocytes, which are the cells in your skin that are responsible for producing the pigment or the melanin that gives your skin its color. So for those individuals who tan when in the sun, it is your melanocytes that are responsible for that, and those individuals with darker skin have more melanocytes. Typically skin cancers are classified into two main categories: non-melanomas (which include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) and melanomas.
Who is affected by skin cancer?
Skin cancer can affect anyone of any color, any race or ethnicity. One thing that is interesting to know though is people of color are typically diagnosed at a later stage, and thus this is harder to treat. Why this occurs is not fully known; but this is a very important concern that is worthy of further investigation and more research is needed.
What are the stages of cancer?
Earlier I mentioned stages of cancer; so when we're talking about the stages of cancer it's basically zero to four. Zero technically is not a cancer; it's just an abnormal growth of cells. It's not actually classified as cancer at that stage. Often times the word or words "in situ" is used. Then you move on to stage one which means there is an abnormal growth of cells that has grown in size but is in its original place and has not traveled to other areas; this is an early stage and that's when you want to catch it. Stages two to three is when it increases in size and it may have also traveled to your lymph nodes. Stage four is a more advanced stage and sometimes the term "metastatic" is used. This means the cancer has traveled to other areas of your body such as your lungs or brain. Obviously the later stages that you catch it, the harder it is to treat and the outcome statistics changes.
More statistics about skin cancer
A few more interesting statistics for non-melanoma skin cancer approximately three million Americans are dealing with this within a year's time. For melanoma approximately one million Americans are dealing with this in a year. If you can't tell i think statistics are interesting!! Perhaps the most fascinating though, between the year of 1982 to 2011 melanoma rates doubled and they continue to increase. I just think that is definitely interesting especially if you think about that we try to be more diligent about sunscreen and we're more aware of these things...so why is the rate rising?? Just a topic to seriously consider! (I have my own ideas, but obviously more research is much needed).
Check out my video on this topic!
Stay tuned next time for part 2 which talks about Risk factors for Skin Cancer and learn what you can do about it! In the meantime, if you haven't already, subscribe to my Youtube channel here! AND Follow us on Instagram!
To learn more about skin cancer, you can also visit the following links (and sources utilized):