'Harmless' skin cancer: a red flag?

If you've had a type of skin cancer other than melanoma, your risk for getting another kind of cancer may be more than doubled, regardless of your age, ethnicity or lifestyle factors such as smoking, a recent study of 92,000 women indicates. The two most common skin cancers -- basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas -- are often dismissed as relatively harmless, but they might serve as an early warning sign for cancer of the breast, colon, lung, liver and ovaries, among others. Other studies have shown a smaller but still significant correlation.

There's no need to panic if you've had a nonmelanoma skin cancer, says study author Carol A. Rosenberg, M.D., of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. However, she does recommend being extra-careful about following cancer-screening guidelines, especially for the types for which early detection is critical; these include breast, colon and ovarian cancers.

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