BCC is the most common of the three types of skin cancer. It is correlated with accumulated exposure, but is more strongly associated with the number of sunburn episodes over the course of a lifetime, particularly childhood sunburns. This is a pattern of intermittent exposure (Armstrong and Kricker 2001). BCC tumors occur on commonly exposed skin, usually on the head. Regularly highly exposed areas like the backs of the hands are rarely affected by BCC, but the occasionally sunburned regions like the trunk are more often affected. It grows invasively but is less likely to metastasize than SCC or melanoma tumors (de Gruijl 1999).
Melanoma is the least common but most deadly form of skin cancer. It grows very aggressively and metastasizes rapidly. Melanoma is not linked to accumulated ultraviolet radiation exposure. It is strongly correlated with infrequent severe sunburns, especially those during childhood. Melanoma’s association with intermittent sun exposure patterns is even stronger than that of BCC (Armstrong and Kricker 2001). Though melanoma often occurs on highly exposed parts of the body, it is distributed more widely than either SCC or BCC (English et al. 1997).
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