Skin cancer, cancer, skin tumor… The term “skin cancer” is just an umbrella term for the many different forms of skin cancer.

Mild skin cancer
Mild melanoma is responsible for 90 percent of all cases of skin cancer – it is rarely pigmented and therefore less noticeable. © OGphoto / iStock

Increasing numbers

Every third cancer diagnosis affects the skin, making skin cancer one of the most common types of cancer in Germany with more than 200,000 new cases annually. However, people who die of skin cancer account for only 1% of all cancer-related deaths. So skin cancer can be treated successfully in most cases. – As long as it is recognized in time.

However, it is alarming that the number of people diagnosed with skin cancer is constantly rising: in Germany, for example, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the number of diagnoses of black skin cancer increased fivefold between 1970 and 2015. Most of the new cases are among the elderly, ranging from They are between 75 and 79 years old, because damage from too much sun, for example, often only becomes apparent after years.

But women between the ages of 45 and 54 are more likely to develop skin cancer. Presumably, the perfect beauty of tanned skin plays a role here, because ultraviolet light in the sun or in a solarium is one of the main risk factors for skin cancer.

Mild skin cancer

If you look at 100,000 people, about 328 of them will be diagnosed with skin cancer each year. About 290 of these patients, about 90 percent, will be diagnosed with what is known as “white skin cancer.” This develops in the upper layers of the skin and often appears as a patch or lump that can also become red and bleed. White skin cancer most often develops in areas that are particularly exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck area.

The two most common forms of white skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. A feature of both types of cancer is that tumors grow slowly and are therefore detected before they spread to surrounding tissues – so the chances of a cure are usually very good.

skin cancer
An example of black skin cancer (melanoma). © National Cancer Institute

dark skin cancer

The remaining 10 percent will develop black skin cancer, which is also known as malignant melanoma and is difficult to identify because of its similarity to a dark birthmark or mole. The neoplasm consists of pigment-forming melanocytes, which are located in the epidermis, that is, in the upper layer of the skin. In contrast to white skin cancer, malignant melanoma often forms metastases even when it is small and thus has the highest degree of malignancy among all skin tumors.

In the context of Tumor Individual cancer cells break away from the primary tumor and spread throughout the body through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. This “spread” into surrounding tissues or even distant areas becomes especially dangerous when cancer cells have settled in vital organs such as the liver and brain and continue to grow there. However, due to improvement in skin cancer screening, melanomas are now usually detected at an early stage, so that the chance of a cure is good despite the high degree of malignancy.

Benign or malignant?

Even if white skin cancer is more harmful than malignant melanoma, all the types of melanoma mentioned so far are still malignant tumors that have the ability to grow rapidly and form metastases. On the other hand, benign skin tumors are localized and result from the overgrowth of certain tissues. However, because it does not spread to nearby organs, this type of tumor is usually harmless.


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