Skin cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the skin.
The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Skin also helps control body temperature and stores water, fat, and vitamin D. The skin has several layers, but the two main layers are the epidermis (upper or outer layer) and the dermis (lower or inner layer). Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, which is made up of three kinds of cells:
Anatomy of the skin showing the epidermis (including the squamous cell and basal cell layers), dermis, subcutaneous tissue, and other parts of the skin.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it usually occurs in skin that is exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, and hands.
Different types of cancer start in the skin.
There are two main forms of skin cancer:
Exposure to sunlight affects the risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your child's doctor if you think your child may be at risk.
Risk factors for childhood basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin include the following:
Signs of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin include a raised lump and a sore that does not heal.
These and other signs and symptoms may be caused by basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin or by other conditions.
Check with your child's doctor if your child has any of the following:
Tests that examine the skin are used to diagnose basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
The main treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin is surgery. Two types of surgery may be used:
For more information from the National Cancer Institute about childhood basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, see the following:
For more childhood cancer information and other general cancer resources, see the following:
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This PDQ cancer information summary has current information about the treatment of childhood basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. It is meant to inform and help patients, families, and caregivers. It does not give formal guidelines or recommendations for making decisions about health care.
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The information in this patient summary was taken from the health professional version, which is reviewed regularly and updated as needed, by the PDQ Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board.
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The best way to cite this PDQ summary is:
PDQ® Pediatric Treatment Editorial Board. PDQ Childhood Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Skin Treatment. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Updated <MM/DD/YYYY>. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin/patient/child-skin-treatment-pdq. Accessed <MM/DD/YYYY>.
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Last Revised: 2020-11-02
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