Skin is your body’s largest and fastest-growing organ (see Figure 7). It’s also your first line of defense against bacteria, other germs and viruses that can cause infection and disease.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. The majority of cases are nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), and most of these are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. NMSC typically grows slowly.
Surgery is the primary treatment for most people with NMSC. Other options are radiation therapy, photodynamic therapy, drug therapies and immunotherapy.
Currently, two checkpoint inhibitors may be used in certain instances for people with NMSC (see Exploring Immunotherapy). One treats Merkel cell carcinoma, which is a rare, aggressive skin cancer that forms within the top layer of skin near the nerve endings. The other is for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (CSCC), a slow-growing disease that forms on the skin’s surface in areas that have been regularly exposed to sunlight or other ultraviolet light sources. This treatment is currently approved for locally advanced or CSCC that has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body).