Skin Cancer ACS Research Highlights

Skin cancer is by far the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US. We know a lot about what causes skin cancer, and researchers are making more progress by using what we know to better understand the best ways to prevent and treat it. 


Spotlight on ACS Research Publications

The American Cancer Society (ACS) employs a staff of full-time researchers and funds scientists across the United States who relentlessly search for answers to help us better understand cancer, including skin cancer. Here are some highlights of their work.

Scant Evidence that UV Exposure Causes Melanoma in Dark Skin Types 

“Promoting sunscreen as an effective strategy to help prevent melanoma is a reasonable public health message—for people with light skin. But that’s not the case for people with dark skin. It’s true that Black people can develop melanoma, but the risk is very low. People with skin of color are more likely to develop melanoma in areas that aren’t usually exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Sunscreen will do nothing to reduce the risk of these cancers.

“People with dark skin tend to show up to dermatologists like me when melanoma is at a later stage, but it’s not because they didn’t wear sunscreen. It’s because of lack of awareness and lack of access to health care. We can’t tell people with skin of color yet that we know their risk factors for melanoma. What we can and should be telling them until we do is to seek medical attention if they have any changing, bleeding, painful, or otherwise concerning spots on their skin, particularly on the hands and feet.”—Adewole Adamson, MD, MPP

See the full highlight of Dr. Adamson's study.


Researcher Makes Transparent Zebrafish Glow to Study Melanoma

“It’s hard to know when cancers start. It’s really hard to know when cancers spread to other places. The first advantage of using zebrafish to study cancer is their transparency, letting us see what’s happening inside them with unprecedented detail. With melanoma, we can see tumors growing beneath the fish’s scales. Zebrafish are also cheap, easy to genetically engineer, and they get cancer in the wild, with mechanisms that are similar to those in humans.”­—Richard White, MD, PhD

See the full highlight about Dr. White's published study.

A Look Inside the Richard White Lab at MSK

ACS grantee and clinical researcher, Richard White, MD, PhD, explains why his lab zebrafish uses zebrafish to study cancer. Video by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Fish Fins Teach Researchers About Melanoma on Hands and Feet

“We recently experimented with zebrafish to learn more about acral melanoma—the type that only occurs on the palms, feet, and under nails. We discovered that whether cancer-causing genes—oncogenes—actually lead to cancer seems to also depend on the skin cell’s position in the body. It’s the location of the skin cell itself that dictates whether the oncogene causes cancer to develop. Our work leads to the interesting idea that instead of only treating the oncogene, we can develop drugs to treat the oncogene’s position.”
—Richard White, MD, PhD

See the full highlight about Dr. White's published study.


New Clues About Why Certain Skin Cancers Vary Among Patients

“Research funded by the American Cancer Society has enabled my lab to take one step closer to precision medicine for this potentially devastating disease. We can identify the molecular features that make these lymphomas more dangerous. The goal now is to identify novel drugs to target this aggressive disease subtype.”
—Jaehyuk Choi, MD, PhD

See the full highlight about Dr. Choi's published study.


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Grants in Skin Cancer

63 Grants with $24 Million of Funding as of August 1, 2021

We Fund Cancer Researchers Across the US

The American Cancer Society funds scientists who conduct research about cancer at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects proposals to fund. 

ACS Cancer Prevention Studies

Studying Skin Cancer Causes and Prevention

The Cancer Prevention and Survivorship team in the American Cancer Society’s Population Science Department:

  • Analyzes data about the link between lifestyle and skin cancer on an ongoing basis through the Cancer Prevention Study II (CPS-II). It began in 1982 and tracks about 1.2 million American men and women from all 50 states.
  • Conducts Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS-3) to better understand ways to prevent cancer, including skin cancer. It started in 2013 and includes over 304,000 American men and women from all over the US and Puerto Rico.

Skin Cancer Cancer Facts & Figures in Brief

Find more statistics about melanoma on the Cancer Statistics Center:

  • Estimated new cases and deaths 
  • Historical trends in incidence rates 
  • Historical trends in death rates
  • 5-year survival rates 

Use the analysis tool in the drop-down menu to see any of these statistics in comparison to other types of cancer.