can skin cancer kill you

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Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting millions of people worldwide. It’s a disease that starts in the skin and can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. There are different types of skin cancer, each with its own causes, symptoms, and treatment options. In this blog post, we will explore everything you need to know about skin cancer and answer the question on everyone’s mind: can skin cancer kill you? Read on to find out more!

Causes of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a condition that occurs when skin cells start to grow abnormally. These abnormal cells can cause the growth of tumors, which can be either benign or malignant. The causes of skin cancer are often related to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or other sources such as tanning beds.

i. UV Radiation Exposure:

Excessive exposure to sunlight remains one of the most common causes of skin cancer, especially if you have fair skin and blue eyes, and especially during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), which increases the risk of skin cancer. The UV rays in sunlight damage the DNA in your skin cells, leading them to grow abnormally and form tumors.

ii. Tanning beds 

Tanning beds also emit UV radiation, which can increase your risk of developing melanoma – a deadly type of skin cancer. In fact, research has found that people who use indoor tanning devices before the age of 35 have an almost 60% higher risk for melanoma!

iii. Weakened Immune system

Other factors that may increase your risk for developing skin cancer include having a weakened immune system due to certain medical conditions or medications; having numerous moles on your body; and a family history of this disease. People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or who have undergone organ transplants, are at a higher risk of skin cancer.

iv. Family History

A family history of skin cancer can increase an individual’s risk, particularly if close relatives have had melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

v. Personal History

If you have previously had skin cancer, you are at an increased risk of developing it again.

vi. Sunburns

Experiencing one or more severe sunburns during childhood or adolescence can elevate the risk of skin cancer in later life.

vii. Moles

Unusual or atypical moles (dysplastic nevi) can be a risk factor for melanoma, as can having a large number of moles.

viii. Age

The risk of skin cancer increases with age, with older individuals being more susceptible.

ix. Exposure to Chemicals

Exposure to certain chemicals, such as arsenic, can increase the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

x. Chronic Skin Conditions

Certain chronic skin conditions, like actinic keratosis, can be precancerous and may progress to skin cancer if left untreated.

xi. Radiation Therapy

Previous radiation therapy for other medical conditions can increase the risk of developing skin cancer in the treated area.

xii. Geography

Living in regions with high levels of sunlight, such as areas close to the equator, can increase the risk of skin cancer.

It’s essential to take steps to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, regularly check your skin for any changes or suspicious moles, and seek medical attention if you notice any abnormalities.

Early detection and treatment can significantly improve the outcome of skin cancer. Additionally, wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and sunglasses, as well as seeking shade during peak sun hours, are effective preventive measures.

Early Symptoms of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can manifest in various forms, and its early symptoms can vary depending on the type of skin cancer. There are three primary types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Here are some common early symptoms and signs associated with each type:

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a common type of slow-growing skin cancer caused by sun exposure. It typically appears as a pearly bump, a flesh-colored patch, or an open sore that won’t heal. BCC rarely spreads but should be treated promptly through methods like surgery or topical creams. Prevention includes sun protection and regular skin checks.

basal cell carcinoma


i. Pearly or waxy bump

This type of skin cancer often appears as a shiny, translucent bump that may be flesh-colored, pink, or white.

ii. Flat, scaly patch 

BCC can also present as a flat, scaly area that looks like a red or brownish patch.

iii. Open sore or ulcer

Sometimes, a sore that doesn’t heal or keeps recurring can be a sign of BCC.

iv. Bleeding or oozing

BCC lesions may bleed or ooze, especially when irritated or scratched.

v. Growth

Over time, a BCC lesion may grow larger and change in size or appearance.

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a type of skin cancer that usually starts as a red, scaly patch or a persistent sore. It can sometimes grow into raised, rough growths. SCC can be treated effectively if detected early. Prevention involves sun protection and monitoring for skin changes.

squamous cell melanoma


i. Red, scaly patch 

SCC often begins as a flat, red, scaly patch on the skin.

ii. Persistent sore or ulcer

An open sore that doesn’t heal or repeatedly returns can be a sign of SCC.

iii. Crusted or bleeding area: 

SCC lesions may crust over, bleed, or develop a scab.

iv. Raised, wart-like growth

Some SCCs appear as raised, rough, or wart-like growths.

v. Tender or painful

SCC lesions can be tender to the touch and may cause discomfort.

3. Melanoma:

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color. It is known for its potential to spread quickly to other parts of the body if not detected and treated early. Melanomas often appear as dark or unusual-looking moles and can be deadly if left untreated. Early detection through regular skin checks and medical attention is crucial for better outcomes.



i. Change in an existing mole 

A melanoma can develop within an existing mole or appear as a new, unusual mole.

ii. Asymmetry 

One half of the mole does not match the other half in terms of size, shape, or color.

iii. Irregular borders

Melanomas often have uneven, irregular, or jagged borders.

iv. Varied colors 

They may display multiple colors within the same mole, such as shades of brown, black, blue, red, or white.

v. Diameter

Melanomas are typically larger than the size of a pencil eraser, although they can be smaller.

vi. Evolution 

Any change in the size, shape, color, or elevation of a mole or the development of a new, suspicious-looking spot should be examined promptly.

It’s important to note that not all skin changes or abnormalities indicate cancer. However, if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms or have concerns about changes in your skin, it’s advisable to consult a dermatologist or healthcare professional for a thorough evaluation. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer significantly improve the chances of successful outcomes. Regular skin self-exams and annual skin checks by a healthcare provider are recommended, especially if you have risk factors for skin cancer.

late symptoms of Skin Cancer

Late-stage symptoms of skin cancer, particularly when it has advanced or metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), can vary depending on the type of skin cancer. Here are some general late-stage symptoms to be aware of:

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

In the late stages, untreated BCC can lead to extensive tissue destruction and disfigurement, especially if it grows deeply into the skin or invades nearby structures.


Rarely, BCC can metastasize to other parts of the body, although this is extremely uncommon.

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

In advanced cases, untreated SCC can invade deeper layers of the skin and may spread to nearby lymph nodes or other organs.


Late-stage SCC may cause more significant tissue damage, pain, and disfigurement.

If SCC spreads, it can lead to symptoms associated with the affected organs or lymph nodes, such as difficulty swallowing if it affects the throat or neck.

3. Melanoma

Late-stage melanoma can be particularly aggressive and may spread to distant organs, such as the lungs, liver, brain, or bones.


Symptoms of advanced melanoma can include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Pain or discomfort in affected organs.
  • Neurological symptoms if it spreads to the brain.
  • Bone pain or fractures if it spreads to the bones.

It’s crucial to understand that skin cancer is most treatable and curable when detected early. Late-stage symptoms are typically associated with more challenging and aggressive treatment options and can have a poorer prognosis. 

Regular skin self-exams and annual skin checks by a healthcare provider are essential for early detection and prompt treatment. If you notice any changes in your skin, such as the development of new or changing moles, growths, or persistent sores, consult a healthcare professional promptly. Early intervention significantly improves the chances of a successful outcome.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are several types of skin cancer, but the most common ones are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma.

1. Basal cell carcinoma 

It is usually found in areas that have been exposed to the sun, such as the face and neck. It often appears as a flesh-colored or pink bump with visible blood vessels on the surface.

2. Squamous cell carcinoma 

It can also appear on sun-exposed areas of the body like BCC. However, it may also occur on other parts of your skin or inside your mouth. SCC typically looks like a scaly patch or red bump that might bleed easily.

3. Melanoma 

It is less common than BCC and SCC but is more dangerous. This type of skin cancer develops from melanocytes cells, which give color to the skin, hair, and eyes. Melanomas often look like moles that have irregular shapes, uneven coloring or dark shades around them.

It’s important to remember that all types of skin cancers should be taken seriously and treated promptly by a dermatologist for optimal outcomes in treatment results

Tests to Identify Skin Cancer

When it comes to skin cancer, early detection is key. That’s why it’s important for individuals to regularly check their skin and visit a dermatologist if they notice any changes. However, in order to determine whether or not a suspicious spot is actually cancerous, various tests may need to be conducted.

1. Biopsy

One common test used to identify skin cancer is a biopsy. During this procedure, the dermatologist will remove a small piece of the affected area and send it off to be examined under a microscope.

There are different types of skin biopsies, including:

Shave Biopsy 

A thin layer of the skin is shaved off with a scalpel.

Punch Biopsy 

A small core of skin is removed using a circular punch tool.

Excisional Biopsy 

The entire lesion or a significant portion of it is removed.

The biopsy sample is sent to a pathology laboratory where a pathologist examines it under a microscope to determine if cancer cells are present.

2. Dermoscopy

Another method that can be used is dermoscopy. This involves using a special tool called a dermatoscope which allows the doctor to see beneath the surface of the skin and examine any irregularities more closely.

3. Additional Tests

In some cases, further tests may be needed to determine the extent of the cancer and whether it has spread. These tests may include

Sentinel lymph node biopsy 

This test is performed when there is a suspicion that melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Imaging tests 

Such as X-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, or PET scans may be used to assess if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

CT scan

4. Visual Examination 

A healthcare provider, typically a dermatologist, will visually examine your skin to look for any suspicious lesions, moles, or growths. They will assess various characteristics, such as size, shape, color, and borders.

It’s important for individuals who are at an increased risk of developing skin cancer (such as those with fair skin or frequent sun exposure) to schedule regular check-ups with their dermatologist so that any potential issues can be caught early on.

Can Skin Cancer kill you?

Skin cancer is a serious health condition that can be life-threatening if left untreated. While some forms of skin cancer are less aggressive and easier to treat, others can spread quickly throughout the body, leading to severe complications and even death.

Melanoma, in particular, is one of the most dangerous types of skin cancer. It occurs when pigment-producing cells in the skin mutate and grow uncontrollably. If not detected early enough, melanoma can quickly spread to other parts of the body through the lymph nodes or bloodstream.

The risk of dying from skin cancer depends on several factors such as age, overall health status, type and stage of cancer. Non-melanoma cancers have a high cure rate but they too pose serious risks especially when ignored for long periods

It’s important to note that not all cases of skin cancer will lead to death. However, it’s crucial to take any changes in your skin seriously and seek medical attention right away if you notice any suspicious moles or growths.

Early detection and treatment are key in preventing advanced stages where there’s an increased risk for complications including death. Regular self-examination as well as regular check-ups with dermatologists play a vital role in diagnosing potential issues before they become more concerning.

In summary, while Skin Cancer has varying levels of severity based on type, early diagnosis coupled with prompt treatment increases survival rates significantly.

Treatment of Skin Cancer

1. Surgery

i. Excision

The most common treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is surgical excision. The cancerous tissue, along with a margin of healthy skin, is removed. This is often done as an outpatient procedure.

ii. Mohs Micrographic Surgery 

This technique is particularly effective for BCC and SCC, especially when the cancer is large, has unclear borders, or is in a cosmetically sensitive area. It involves removing the cancer layer by layer, with immediate microscopic examination, until no cancer cells are detected.

2. Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. It is often used when surgery is not possible due to the tumor’s location or when the patient cannot undergo surgery.

3. Topical Medications

For very early, superficial skin cancers, topical medications like imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) cream may be applied directly to the skin to destroy cancer cells.

4. Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy involves freezing the cancerous tissue using liquid nitrogen. It is often used for small, early-stage skin cancers like BCC or SCC.

5. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)

PDT involves applying a photosensitizing agent to the skin, followed by exposure to a specific type of light. This activates the agent and destroys cancer cells. PDT is mainly used for superficial BCC and SCC.

6. Targeted Therapy and Immunotherapy:

In cases of advanced melanoma, targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs may be used to target specific genetic mutations or boost the immune system’s ability to fight cancer.

7. Chemotherapy

Systemic chemotherapy (chemo) may be recommended for advanced melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. However, it is less commonly used for non-melanoma skin cancers.

8. Lymph Node Surgery

In cases where melanoma has spread to nearby lymph nodes, surgery to remove affected lymph nodes may be necessary.

9. Electrodesiccation and Curettage (ED&C)

This procedure involves scraping away the cancerous tissue with a curette (a spoon-shaped instrument) and then using an electric current to destroy any remaining cancer cells.

The choice of treatment depends on various factors, including the type and stage of skin cancer, the location of the cancer, the patient’s overall health, and their preferences. It’s essential to consult with a dermatologist or oncologist to determine the most appropriate treatment plan. Early detection and treatment generally result in the best outcomes for skin cancer.

melanoma and non-melanoma Skin Cancer


  • i. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates in melanocytes, the cells responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color leading to the formation of malignant tumors on the skin. 
  • ii. It is the most serious form of skin cancer because it has the potential to metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body, and spread rapidly through the body’s lymphatic system or bloodstream if not detected early enough making it life-threatening.
  • iii. Melanoma often appears as an unusual or changing mole, typically characterized by irregular borders, multiple colors, asymmetry, and larger size compared to common moles.
  • iv. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical for improving the prognosis of melanoma.
  • v. Treatment may include surgical removal, lymph node biopsy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on the stage and extent of the cancer.

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

  • i. Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
  • ii. BCC is the most common type of skin cancer and is typically slow-growing, rarely spreading to other parts of the body. It often appears as a pearly or waxy bump, a flesh-colored patch, or an open sore.
  • iii. SCC is the second most common type and is also usually slow-growing. It may appear as a red, scaly patch, a persistent sore, or a raised, rough growth.
  • iv. Both BCC and SCC are usually associated with long-term sun exposure, and they are highly treatable when detected early. Treatment often involves surgical removal, cryotherapy, radiation therapy, or topical medications.

In summary, melanoma is a more aggressive and potentially deadly form of skin cancer, while non-melanoma skin cancers (BCC and SCC) are typically slower-growing and have a lower risk of metastasis. 

Regardless of the type, early detection and prompt treatment are crucial for a favorable outcome in skin cancer cases. Regular skin self-exams and professional skin checks are essential for early diagnosis and prevention.

It’s important for people who are at risk for developing Skin Cancer (those with fair complexion, family history, etc.) should take preventive measures such as wearing sunscreen regularly; and checking their moles every month for changes in size shape color thickness asymmetry (ABCDE rule); and consulting with a dermatologist on any suspicious spots they notice on their bodies

The Survival Rate for Skin Cancer

Survival rate is a term used by doctors to describe the percentage of people who survive for a certain amount of time after being diagnosed with skin cancer. The survival rate depends on many factors such as age, gender, the stage of cancer, and overall health.

For non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, the 5-year survival rate is very high – around 95%. This means that most people who are diagnosed with these types of skin cancer will live at least five years after their diagnosis.

Melanoma has a lower survival rate than non-melanoma skin cancers. However, if melanoma is caught early before it spreads beyond the surface layer of the skin, there’s an excellent chance for a complete cure with surgery alone. Even in advanced cases where it has spread to other parts of the body, new treatments have been shown to improve outcomes significantly.

It’s important to remember that while statistics can be helpful in understanding your prognosis; they don’t tell you everything about your individual case. Your doctor can provide more information about your specific situation based on personal circumstances.

Additionally, adopting healthy habits and avoiding risk factors like sun exposure or tanning beds may help prevent future occurrences or reduce chances for recurrence following treatment.


To sum up, skin cancer is a serious disease that can be fatal if not detected and treated in time. It is important to know the causes and symptoms of skin cancer so that you can take preventive measures and seek medical attention when necessary

The good news is that there are many effective treatments available for both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Early diagnosis and treatment increase the chances of survival significantly

Remember to always protect your skin from harmful UV rays by wearing protective clothing, applying sunscreen regularly, avoiding tanning beds, seeking shade during peak hours of sunlight, and getting regular check-ups with a dermatologist.

If you notice any unusual changes on your skin or experience any symptoms mentioned in this article, do not hesitate to see a doctor. Your health matters!

The life expectancy of a person with skin cancer depends on the type, stage, and treatment. Early-stage non-melanoma skin cancers often have a high survival rate, while melanoma’s prognosis varies with its stage. Early detection and treatment are critical for better outcomes.

moreover, they can survive for almost fiver years if they are infected by melanoma

Yes, certain aggressive types of skin cancer, like melanoma, can progress quickly and become life-threatening if not detected and treated promptly. Early detection is crucial for a better prognosis.

Did you know? When melanoma is caught and treated before it spreads to lymph nodes, the survival rate soars to an impressive 99%! However, if it reaches nearby lymph nodes, the rate drops to 68%, and when it spreads to distant lymph nodes and organs, it becomes more challenging, with a 30% survival rate. Early detection is key!

  • Asymmetry: One half of the mole or spot does not match the other half in terms of shape or size.
  • Border Irregularity: The edges of the mole are uneven, scalloped, or poorly defined.
  • Color Variation: The mole or spot has different shades of color, such as brown, black, red, white, or blue.
  • Diameter: The mole is larger in diameter than a pencil eraser (usually larger than 6mm or 1/4 inch), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller.
  • Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, color, or elevation over time, or it looks different from other moles.
  • Itching, Pain, or Bleeding: Moles or spots that itch, hurt, or bleed without an apparent cause should be checked.
  • New Mole or Spot: The appearance of a new mole or spot in adulthood or any growth on the skin that seems unusual should be examined by a healthcare professional.

Skin cancer typically isn’t painful in its early stages. However, it can become uncomfortable or painful as it advances or if it affects nerves or surrounding tissues. Regular skin checks help catch it early when treatment is most effective.

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