The Answer To The Question If Skin Cancer Can Come And Go Is Rather Tricky
Skin cancer coming and going would refer to malignant cells being there one day and then withering away shortly after without any treatment.
And then returning again in the same spot. This has not been shown to occur with the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma.
It has also not been shown to occur with another type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma there are no cases confirming that this particular cancer was literally coming and going without treatment.
The same can be said for the most common cancer in the world, a skin growth known as basal cell carcinoma.
Howeverthe concept of a skin cancer coming and going appearing and disappearing spontaneously without treatment might be applicable to precancerous lesions.
Your immune system will help destroy some early stages of skin cancer like actinic keratosis, says Janet Prystowsky, MD, board certified dermatologist in New York, NY, with 30+ years experience.
Dr. Prystowsky adds, The growth may recur, however. The process may repeat itself.
What Are Some Of The Lesser
Some of the less common skin cancers include the following:
Kaposi sarcoma is a rare cancer most commonly seen in people who have weakened immune systems, those who have human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS and people who are taking immunosuppressant medications who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplant.
Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are:
- Blue, black, pink, red or purple flat or bumpy blotches or patches on your arms, legs and face. Lesions might also appear in your mouth, nose and throat.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that begins at the base of the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. This cancer starts in Merkel cells, which share of the features of nerve cells and hormone-making cells and are very close to the nerve ending in your skin. Merkel cell cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell skin cancer.
Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are:
- A small reddish or purplish bump or lump on sun-exposed areas of skin.
- Lumps are fast-growing and sometimes open up as ulcers or sores.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually appears on your eyelid. This cancer tends to develop around your eyes because theres a large number of sebaceous glands in that area.
Signs and symptoms of sebaceous gland carcinoma are:
- A painless, round, firm, bump or lump on or slightly inside your upper or lower eyelid.
Melanoma: The Deadliest Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, because it tends to spread if its not treated early.
This cancer starts in the melanocytes cells in the epidermis that make pigment.
About 100,350 new melanomas are diagnosed each year.
Risk factors for melanoma include:
- Having fair skin, light eyes, freckles, or red or blond hair
- Having a history of blistering sunburns
- Being exposed to sunlight or tanning beds
- Living closer to the equator or at a higher elevation
- Having a family history of melanoma
- Having many moles or unusual-looking moles
- Having a weakened immune system
Melanoma can develop within a mole that you already have, or it can pop up as a new dark spot on your skin.
This cancer can form anywhere on your body, but it most often affects areas that have had sun exposure, such as the back, legs, arms, and face. Melanomas can also develop on the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, or fingernail beds.
Signs to watch out for include:
- A mole that changes in color, size, or how it feels
- A mole that bleeds
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What Is The Likely Outcome For Someone Who Has Bcc
When found early and treated, this skin cancer can often be removed. However, this skin cancer can return. You also have a higher risk of developing another BCC or other type of skin cancer.
Thats why self-care becomes so important after treatment for BCC. Youll find the self-care that dermatologists recommend at, Basal cell carcinoma: Self-care.
ReferencesBichakjian CK, Armstrong A, et al. Guidelines of care for the management of basal cell carcinoma. J Am Acad Dermatol 2018 78:540-59.
Bichakjian CK, Olencki T, et al. Basal cell skin cancer, Version 1.2016, NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2016 14:574-97.
Cameron MC, Lee E, et al. Basal cell carcinoma: Epidemiology pathophysiology clinical and histological subtypes and disease associations. J Am Acad Dermatol 2019 80:303-17.
Cameron MC, Lee E, et al. Basal cell carcinoma: Contemporary approaches to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. J Am Acad Dermatol 2019 80:321-39.
Nouri K, Ballard CJ, et al. Basal cell carcinoma. In: Nouri K, et al. Skin Cancer. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2008: 61-81.
Xie P, Lefrançois P. Efficacy, safety, and comparison of sonic hedgehog inhibitors in basal cell carcinomas: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2018 79:1089-100.
What Will Happen After Treatment
Youll be glad when treatment is over. Your doctor will want you to check your skin at least once a month. It will be very important to protect yourself from getting too much sun.
For years after treatment ends, you will see your skin cancer doctor. At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. Your doctor will ask about symptoms and check you for signs of the cancer coming back or a new skin cancer. Other exams and tests may also be done.
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as good as you can.
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Basal Cell Carcinoma Is Not And Will Never Be Melanoma
by Health Professional
to tell you about various skin cancers and where they arise in the skin. Specifically, I want to clarify why one skin cancer cannot turn into another type of skin cancer. Because many people know that basal cell carcinoma is not as dangerous as melanoma, patients often ask if a basal cell carcinoma would eventually turn into a deadly melanoma if it were to go untreated. Because these are two different skin cancers, one cannot not become the other. I hope to more clearly discuss this and give a better understanding of skin cancers in this post.
The skin is divided into different layers, with different types of cells populating these layers. Without getting very technical, the top of the skin is the “epidermis” and is made up of different types of cells. Below the epidermis is the “dermis”, which is comprised of collagen. This gives the skin its durability and elasticity. At the very base or bottom of the epidermis are basal cells, who get their name from being at the base of the epidermis. These cells usually line the bottom of the epidermis and are very uniform in shape and appearance. If these basal cells become abnormal and start to appear deeper down in the dermis , then these cells have become cancerous and are then called basal cell carcinoma. Despite being cancerous, basal cell carcinoma tends not to go very deep into the dermis and does not spread to other parts of the body.
What Does Bcc Look Like
BCCs can look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, scars or growths with slightly elevated, rolled edges and/or a central indentation. At times, BCCs may ooze, crust, itch or bleed. The lesions commonly arise in sun-exposed areas of the body. In patients with darker skin, about half of BCCs are pigmented .
Its important to note that BCCs can look quite different from one person to another. For more images and information on BCC signs, symptoms and early detection strategies, visit our BCC Warning Signs page.
Please note: Since not all BCCs have the same appearance, these photos serve as a general reference to what they can look like. If you see something new, changing or unusual on your skin, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.
An open sore that does not heal
A shiny bump or nodule
A reddish patch or irritated area
A scar-like area that is flat white, yellow or waxy in color
A small pink growth with a slightly raised, rolled edge and a crusted indentation in the center
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What Causes Squamous Cell Cancer
Most squamous cell skin cancers are caused by repeated and unprotected skin exposure to ultraviolet light from sunlight and tanning beds.
Risk factors for developing squamous cell skin cancer include:
- Ultraviolet light exposure
- Excisional biopsy: removes the entire tumor
- Incisional biopsy: removes only a portion of the tumor
What Is A Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that occurs when there is damage to the DNA of basal cells in the top layer, or epidermis, of the skin. They are called basal cells because they are the deepest cells in the epidermis. In normal skin, the basal cells are less than one one-hundredth of an inch deep, but once a cancer has developed, it will spread deeper.
Risk Of Further Melanomas
Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups.
Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems.
After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. A combination of sun protection measures should be used during sun protection times .
As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times.
It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.
Sunlight And Ultraviolet Radiation Exposure
Skin cancer is associated with both the length and intensity of sun exposure. The risk of melanoma increases with excessive sun exposure during the first 10 to 18 years of life. Sunburns are also dangerous having 5 or more sunburns doubles the risk of developing skin cancer. The cancer typically arises many years later.
Tanning beds and sun lamps increase the risk for developing melanoma and other skin cancers, and the risk increases with frequency, age of use, and length of use. Women in their 20s, as well as people with blond or red hair are especially at risk. The World Health Organization has designated tanning devices as known carcinogens. More governmental restrictions are now in place to prevent young people from accessing these devices.
There is some evidence that long-term treatment for psoriasis and other skin conditions using UVA radiation and UVB may increase the risk for melanoma. If phototherapy is part of your treatment plan for skin disease, one should talk with the dermatologist about the risk of skin cancer developing and be checked regularly.
Ethnic Groups and Complexion
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Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Common In Sun
Squamous cell carcinoma, also called squamous cell cancer, is the second most common type of skin cancer. It accounts for about 20 percent of cases.
This type of cancer starts in flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis. It commonly crops up on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, ears, neck, lips, and hands. It can also develop on scars or chronic sores.
Squamous cell carcinomas may develop from precancerous skin spots, known as actinic keratosis .
These cancers might look like:
- A firm, red bump
- A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
- A sore that heals and then reopens
People with lighter skin are more at risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma, but the skin cancer can also affect those with darker skin.
Other risk factors include:
- Having light eyes, blond or red hair, or freckles
- Being exposed to the sun or tanning beds
- Having a history of skin cancer
- Having a history of sunburns
- Having a weakened immune system
- Having the genetic disorder xeroderma pigmentosum
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For More Information About Skin Cancer
National Cancer Institute, Cancer Information Service Toll-free: 4-CANCER 422-6237TTY : 332-8615
Skin Cancer Foundation
Media file 1: Skin cancer. Malignant melanoma.
Media file 2: Skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma.
Media file 3: Skin cancer. Superficial spreading melanoma, left breast. Photo courtesy of Susan M. Swetter, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.
Media file 4: Skin cancer. Melanoma on the sole of the foot. Diagnostic punch biopsy site located at the top. Photo courtesy of Susan M. Swetter, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.
Media file 5: Skin cancer. Melanoma, right lower cheek. Photo courtesy of Susan M. Swetter, MD, Director of Pigmented Lesion and Cutaneous Melanoma Clinic, Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Stanford University Medical Center, Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.
Media file 6: Skin cancer. Large sun-induced squamous cell carcinoma on the forehead and temple. Image courtesy of Dr. Glenn Goldman.
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How Is Basal Cell Skin Cancer Treated When It Grows Deep Or Spreads
While this skin cancer tends to grow slowly, early treatment is recommended. Without treatment, BCC can grow deep, destroying what lies in its way. This can be disfiguring. The medical term for this is advanced basal cell carcinoma.
Its also possible for BCC to spread to other parts of your body, but this is rare. When the cancer spreads, it typically travels first to the lymph nodes closest to the tumor. From there, it tends to spread through the blood to bones, the lungs, and other parts of the skin. When this skin cancer spreads, it is called metastatic basal cell carcinoma.
For cancer that has grown deep or spread to the closest lymph nodes, treatment may involve:
Surgery to remove the tumor
Follow-up treatment with radiation to kill any remaining cancer cells
For some patients, medication that works throughout the body may be an option. Medication may also be used to treat cancer that:
Returns after surgery or radiation treatments
Has spread to another part of the body
Two such medications have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration . Both come in pill form and are taken every day. A patient only stops taking the medication if the cancer starts to grow, or the side effects become too severe.
The two medications are:
In clinical trials, these medications have been shown to stop or slow down the spread of the cancer and shrink the cancerous tumors in some patients.
Cemplimab may be an option if sonidegib or vismodegib:
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Stages
There are certain features that are considered to make the cancer at higher risk for spreading or recurrence, and these may also be used to stage squamous cell carcinomas. These include:
- Greater than 2 mm in thickness
- Invasion into the lower dermis or subcutis layers of the skin
- Invasion into the tiny nerves in the skin
- Location on the ear or on a hair-bearing lip
After the TNM components and risk factors have been established, the cancer is assigned to one of the five squamous cell carcinoma stages, which are labeled 0 to 4. The characteristics and stages of squamous cell cancer are:
Stage 0: Also called carcinoma in situ, cancer discovered in this stage is only present in the epidermis and has not spread deeper to the dermis.
Stage 1 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer is less than 2 centimeters, about 4/5 of an inch across, has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs, and has one or fewer high-risk features.
Stage 2 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer is larger than 2 centimeters across, and has not spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, or a tumor of any size with 2 or more high risk features.
Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer has spread into facial bones or 1 nearby lymph node, but not to other organs.
Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer can be any size and has spread to 1 or more lymph nodes which are larger than 3 cm and may have spread to bones or other organs in the body.
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What Are Basal And Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer. They start in the top layer of skin , and are often related to sun exposure.
Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer cells. To learn more about cancer and how it starts and spreads, see What Is Cancer?