Skin Cancer Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to current estimates, 40 to 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once. There are two different types of skin cancer: Melanomous and non-melanomous. To understand both of these terms a little better you need to be aware that your skin is divided up into 3 layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutis. The top layer, the epidermis, is very thin and serves to protect the deeper layers of the skin. The epidermis is also composed of basal cells, which in turn divide to form squamous cells and melanocytes. Melanoma skin cancer develops from the melanocytes and non-melanomous skin cancer develops from the basal and squamous cells. There are 2 types of non-melanomous cancer that result from these cells. The first is basal cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma begins in the lowest layer of the epidermis, the basal cell layer. About 75% of all skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. This type of skin cancer tends to be slow growing and is usually found in areas that are highly exposed to sunlight, such as the head or neck. The second type is called squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for 20% of all skin cancers, and penetrates the skin more than basal cell would, therefore, is considered to be more harmful. Unlike non-melanomous skin cancer, melanomous is much more uncommon and much more deadly. Melanomous skin cancer accounts for less than 4% of skin cancer cases, but causes about 79% of skin cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society predicts that in the year 2000 about 7,700 people will die of this cancer. Surprisingly, even with these astonishing numbers people still continue to put themselves at risk everyday. Through the efforts of organizations such as the American Cancer Society people are becoming more aware everyday of the severity of skin cancer. The solution to all this is very simple, we all need to wear sunscreen (at least SPF 15) when planning to expose ourselves to the sun. There are also other everyday preventive measures that we can take to decrease our chances of harmful exposure to the sun. It is always helpful to wear a shirt and a hat with a broad brim. Wear sunglasses that absorb 99%-100% of the UV rays.