Types of Skin Cancer
You might be surprised to learn that skin cancer is the most common form of all cancers. But when skin cancer is caught early, it’s almost always treatable. It’s very important to know all skin cancer types so you can be aware of what they look like and when to go see a dermatology provider immediately. When skin cancer is detected early and treatment is given, nearly all skin cancers can be treated with no mortality. Each of the skin cancer types present differently on the skin, which is why knowing what they look like is crucial in detecting them yourself. Some types of skin cancer will look like a bump or dot on the skin and you might easily shrug it off as nothing. As a rule, if you see a spot on your skin that is changing in color, shape, texture or size, make an appointment to see a dermatology provider to get it checked out immediately.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Did you know that basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most commonly occurring type of skin cancer? In fact, it’s the most common of all cancers combined. Basal cell carcinoma refers to the skin’s basal cells, which are found in the deepest part of the epidermis.
Causes of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The major cause of basal cell carcinoma is sun exposure—both long-term sun exposure that takes place over many years as well as the type of sun damage you receive from short but intense bouts of sun exposure that can lead to sunburn. This is why the majority of BCCs are found on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun, such as face, ears, neck, scalp, back and shoulders.
Who’s at Risk of Getting Basal Cell Carcinoma?
You’re at risk of developing basal cell carcinoma if you have a history of unprotected sun exposure, particularly those who work outdoors or who have spent many hours outside. But if you have fair skin, blue, green or grey eyes and red or blond hair, your risk factors increase. Older people are the most commonly affected with BCC, although the age of diagnosis continues to get younger and younger with more and more twenty and thirty year olds receiving skin cancer treatment.
What Does Basal Cell Carcinoma Look Like?
The telltale sign of a BCC is an open sore, pink growth, red patch or a shiny bump. While BCCs are not likely to metastasize (spread) to other areas beyond the original site, they can cause disfiguring scars when removed if they are caught late.
How to Treat Basal Cell Carcinoma
Once your dermatology provider determines that your lesion is a BCC with a biopsy, they will discuss your skin cancer treatment options. The choice of removal treatments will depend largely on the location, size, and type of the tumor. Some of the treatment options for BCC include: Excision, Mohs Surgery, Laser Surgery, Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) and Cryosurgery.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The type of skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma is the second most frequently occurring skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is found in the skin’s squamous cells, which make up the majority of the epidermis (the skin’s upper layers).
Causes of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Repeated sun exposure is the primary cause of squamous cell carcinoma. This can be either a lifetime of exposure or from more intense exposure during vacations and the summertime as well as UV-damage from tanning beds.
Where Does Squamous Cell Carcinoma Appear?
The most common areas for squamous cell carcinoma to appear on the body are the areas that receive sun exposure. Additionally, SCC can be found on the mucous membranes including lips, eyelids, and genitals.
What Does Squamous Cell Carcinoma Look Like?
Squamous Cell Carcinoma lesions often present as rough, thick, scaly patches of skin that might bleed if scratched or bumped. They sometimes look like warts or sores with a crusty, raised surface.
Risk Factors for Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The main risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma is basically anyone who has a history of long term sun exposure or sunburns. People with fair skin and light hair and light eyes have an increased risk of developing this type of skin cancer. If you’ve had basal cell carcinoma, your chances of developing SCC are also higher. Most of the population to be diagnosed with SCC are over the age of 50, but recently the age has become younger and younger. Indoor tanning is a major cause of squamous cell carcinoma. Actinic keratoses, which presents on the skin as a rough, scaly and raised growth, can be the first sign of a squamous cell carcinoma. If you feel or see an actinc keratoses on your skin, it’s important to get it removed before it turns into skin cancer.
Melanoma is the deadliest of all skin cancer types. Like other types of skin cancer, melanoma is typically caused by unprotected sun exposure or tanning bed usage. When melanoma is detected and treated early, it’s treatable, but when caught in later stages, it can spread to other parts of the body and can become fatal. Melanomas can present on the skin as a new growth but often times it can develop from an existing mole, which is why if you see any changes to your moles you must see a dermatology provider right away.
Melanoma Risk Factors
Some of the most common risk factors for melanoma are the amount of moles on your skin. If you have over 100 moles on your body, you could be at a greater risk for developing melanoma. Genetics also play a role in melanoma. If a family member has had melanoma, you could be at a greater risk. The biggest factor in developing melanoma is still sun exposure. It’s essential to practice sun-safe behavior to protect yourself against melanoma or any other skin cancer type. Avoid peak mid-day sun, wear broad-spectrum SPF of 30 on all exposed areas every day, seek shade whenever possible and never go into a tanning bed.
The Warning Signs of Melanoma: Know Your ABCDEs
One of the most important steps of staying skin healthy is knowing your skin well. If you see any changes to moles on your skin, that’s the time to book an appointment with a dermatology provider immediately.
What are the warning signs of melanoma? Memorize these ABCDEs and you’ll be covered:
- A is for Aysmmetry: If you were to draw a line in the center of a mole and the two sides match up perfectly, it’s symmetrical. If the sides are uneven, then it’s asymmetrical and could be a red flag.
- B is for Border: If the borders of your mole are uneven, then it could be the sign of a melanoma. Benign moles have even and smooth borders.
- C is for Color: If a mole is benign, it’s typically just brown, however a suspicious mole can have multiple shades of black, tan or brown and sometimes even blue, white of red.
- D is for Diameter: Melanomas typically have larger diameters than benign moles. A good rule to follow is if the mole has a diameter larger than a pencil eraser, go get it checked out.
- E is for Evolving: Any change to a mole—shape, size, color or texture—is a warning sign and needs to get checked out.
Renal Cell Carcinoma
Renal cell carcinoma refers to kidney cancer in adults. While the tumor site of renal cell carcinoma is the kidney, it can sometimes present as a pimple-like skin lesion. While the cutaneous mestastasis of renal cell carcinoma is very rare, if you see a cyst on your skin that does not go away, it’s best to get it checked out and diagnosed by a doctor.