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What Different Types Of Skin Cancer Are There

The Main Types Of Skin Cancer

VIDEO: How to identify skin cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma

Basal cell carcinoma is an abnormal, uncontrolled type of growth that comes from the skins basal cells, which are found in the outermost layer of the skin. It typically develops on the scalp, ears, face, neck, shoulders, and back and is caused by the combination of intense, cumulative, and long-term exposure to UV rays. There are approximately 3.6 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

If not detected and treated early, BCC can be locally destructive. In some cases, this type of cancer can metastasize or spread, and in rare cases, it can be fatal.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells from the squamous cells in the outmost layer of skin. It is commonly found on sun-exposed body areas such as the hands, shoulders, ears, face, and scalp and is caused by years of UV radiation exposure from the sun and tanning beds. Approximately 1.8 million cases of SCC are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, making it the second most common form of skin cancer.

If not detected and treated early, SCC can sometimes metastasize. Each year in the U.S., approximately 15,000 deaths occur from invasive SCC.

Melanoma develops when the pigment-producing cells which give color to the skin become cancerous. They often resemble moles, and a mole may even develop into a melanoma. They can be found anywhere on the body, even in areas not often exposed to the sun.

Different Types Of Skin Cancer And Their Warning Signs

One in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States. There are different types of skin cancer, and they each have different treatments and prognoses, so its important to understand the nuances and take steps to protect yourself and your skin.

What Causes Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is overexposure to sunlight, especially when it results in sunburn and blistering. Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage DNA in your skin, causing abnormal cells to form. These abnormal cells rapidly divide in a disorganized manner, forming a mass of cancer cells.

Another cause of skin cancer is frequent skin contact with certain chemicals, such as tar and coal.

Many other factors can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. See question, Who is most at risk for skin cancer?

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What Does Skin Cancer Look Like

Basal cell carcinoma

  • BCC frequently develops in people who have fair skin. People who have skin of color also get this skin cancer.

  • BCCs often look like a flesh-colored round growth, pearl-like bump, or a pinkish patch of skin.

  • BCCs usually develop after years of frequent sun exposure or indoor tanning.

  • BCCs are common on the head, neck, and arms however, they can form anywhere on the body, including the chest, abdomen, and legs.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment for BCC are important. BCC can grow deep. Allowed to grow, it can penetrate the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.

Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin

  • People who have light skin are most likely to develop SCC. This skin cancer also develops in people who have darker skin.

  • SCC often looks like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then re-opens.

  • SCC tends to form on skin that gets frequent sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back.

  • SCC can grow deep into the skin, causing damage and disfigurement.

  • Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent SCC from growing deep and spreading to other areas of the body.

SCC can develop from a precancerous skin growth

  • People who get AKs usually have fair skin.

  • AKs usually form on the skin that gets lots of sun exposure, such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms.

  • Because an AK can turn into a type of skin cancer, treatment is important.

Melanoma

When Should I See My Healthcare Provider

Spelling Out Skin Cancer

Make an appointment to see your healthcare provider or dermatologist as soon as you notice:

  • Any changes to your skin or changes in the size, shape or color of existing moles or other skin lesions.
  • The appearance of a new growth on your skin.
  • A sore that doesnt heal.
  • Spots on your skin that are different from others.
  • Any spots that change, itch or bleed.

Your provider will check your skin, take a biopsy , make a diagnosis and discuss treatment. Also, see your dermatologist annually for a full skin review.

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What Is The Outlook For People With Skin Cancer

Nearly all skin cancers can be cured if they are treated before they have a chance to spread. The earlier skin cancer is found and removed, the better your chance for a full recovery. Ninety percent of those with basal cell skin cancer are cured. It is important to continue following up with a dermatologist to make sure cancer does not return. If something seems wrong, call your doctor right away.

Most skin cancer deaths are from melanoma. If you are diagnosed with melanoma:

  • The five-year survival rate if its detected before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 99%.
  • The five-year survival rate if it has spread to nearby lymph nodes is 66%.
  • The five-year survival rate if it has spread to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 27%.

Also Check: Metastatic Melanoma Cancer Life Expectancy

Identifying The Types Of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Did you know that skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the US and globally? Of the various kinds of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is the most common, with up to 4.3 million new cases discovered annually in America. The good news? In the early stages, most types of basal cell carcinoma have a high cure rate and cause very little damage.

This month, were exploring the types of basal cell carcinoma, including the causes, symptoms, and prognosis for recovery.

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Skin Cancer Risk Factors

The primary risk factor for skin cancer of all types is the amount of time a person spends outside or in tanning beds, especially if he or she does not wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Other risk factors are:

  • Fair skin that burns and freckles easily
  • Naturally blonde or red hair
  • Green or blue eyes
  • History of sunburns
  • Geography places at high altitudes and or with abundant sunshine year-round have more incidences of skin cancer
  • History of previous skin cancers
  • Weak immune system from other illnesses

Basal Cell Carcinomas And Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Minute of Wellness: Types of skin cancer

While melanoma often gets the most coverage, there are two other major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Often grouped together as non-melanoma skin cancers, these two types are much more common than melanoma cancer. Although they are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, they may cause disfigurement if not treated early.

Basal cell carcinomas are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skins basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the outermost layer of the skin. They often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps or scars and usually are caused by sun exposure.

Warning signs include:

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish patches that may be itchy
  • Small, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown or black areas
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which may contain abnormal blood vessels
  • Open sores that dont heal or that heal and then return
  • Basal cell cancers are often fragile and might bleed after shaving or after a minor injury. If you have a sore or a shaving cut that doesnt heal after a week, it would be wise to contact your doctor.
  • Rough or scaly red patches, which may crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores that dont heal or that heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths

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Types Of Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma skin cancer can grow into and destroy nearby tissue. It can also spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma skin cancer is also called cutaneous melanoma and malignant melanoma of the skin.

There are 4 main types of melanoma skin cancer superficial spreading, nodular, lentigo maligna and acral lentiginous.

What Are The Four Main Types Of Melanoma Of The Skin

Superficial spreading melanoma

What you should know: This is the most common form of melanoma.

How and where it grows: It can arise in an existing mole or appear as a new lesion. When it begins in a mole that is already on the skin, it tends to grow on the surface of the skin for some time before penetrating more deeply. While it can be found nearly anywhere on the body, it is most likely to appear on the torso in men, the legs in women and the upper back in both.

What it looks like: It may appear as a flat or slightly raised and discolored, asymmetrical patch with uneven borders. Colors include shades of tan, brown, black, red/pink, blue or white. It can also lack pigment and appear as a pink or skin-tone lesion .

Lentigo maligna

What you should know: This form of melanoma often develops in older people. When this cancer becomes invasive or spreads beyond the original site, the disease is known as lentigo maligna melanoma.

How and where it grows: This form of melanoma is similar to the superficial spreading type, growing close to the skin surface at first. The tumor typically arises on sun-damaged skin on the face, ears, arms or upper torso.

What it looks like: It may look like a flat or slightly raised, blotchy patch with uneven borders. Color is usually blue-black, but can vary from tan to brown or dark brown.

Acral lentiginous melanoma

What you should know: This is the most common form of melanoma found in people of color, including individuals of African ancestry.

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How Concerning Is Each Type Of Skin Cancer

As with all cancers, it depends very much on how soon you catch it and whether it has spread. Skin cancer occurs when a previously normal cell undergoes a transformation and begins to grow abnormally and multiply, says Dr Arun. As these cells multiply, they form a mass or tumour. If the tumour is benign, it is non-cancerous and is unlikely to spread, if it is malignant, cells are cancerous and can spread to other tissues and organs.

When it comes to skin cancer, melanoma cancer is by far the most aggressive and more commonly known. It is found in areas most exposed to the sun and the risk of getting skin cancer grows with age.

If you keep a regular check on your moles, you should be able to spot any chances quickly. Non-melanoma cancers can be treated if identified early cure rates for type BCC is high, around 90%, says Dr Arun. Patients who have been treated for non-melanoma cancers will need to monitor the affected area after their treatment and seek advice from their GP or dermatologist if they spot any further changes.

Read Also: How Serious Is Skin Cancer On The Face

Basal Cell Carcinoma: The Most Common Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Types Pictures

Basal cell carcinoma, which is also called basal cell skin cancer, is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for about 80 percent of all cases.

Rates of basal cell carcinoma have been increasing. Experts believe this is due to more sun exposure, longer lives, and better skin cancer detection methods.

This type of cancer begins in the skins basal cells, which are found in the outermost layer, the epidermis. They usually develop on areas that are exposed to the sun, like the face, head, and neck.

Basal cell carcinomas may look like:

  • A flesh-colored, round growth
  • A pinkish patch of skin
  • A bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and then comes back

They typically grow slowly and dont spread to other areas of the body. But, if these cancers arent treated, they can expand deeper and penetrate into nerves and bones.

Though its rare, basal cell carcinoma can be life-threatening. Experts believe that about 2,000 people in the United States die each year from basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

Some risk factors that increase your chances of having a basal cell carcinoma include:

  • Being exposed to the sun or indoor tanning
  • Having a history of skin cancer
  • Being over age 50
  • Having chronic infections, skin inflammation, or a weakened immune system
  • Being exposed to industrial compounds, radiation, coal tar, or arsenic
  • Having an inherited disorder, such as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum

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Precancerous Types Of Skin Cancer

Some precancerous growths, often attributable to sun exposure, can lead to skin cancer over time. However, if they are recognized and removed early, you could avoid a cancer diagnosis. These growths include:

  • Actinic keratosis: About 40-60% of squamous cell cancer cases began as actinic keratosis. Anywhere between 2-10% of these growths will develop into SCC, sometimes in as little as a couple of years. Actinic cheilitis is a type of actinic keratosis that appears on the lower lip, and is at higher risk for developing into skin cancer
  • Bowens disease: This early, noninvasive form of SCC is at high risk of becoming skin cancer if not addressed. It presents as an eczema-like scaly patch and is usually red or brown in color. These growths have been linked to sun exposure, radiation, carcinogen exposure, genetics, and trauma
  • Leukoplakia: These white patches on the lips, tongue, and gums may be caused by alcohol and tobacco use, and can turn into squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer sites on the lips may be caused by sun damage
  • Keratoacanthoma: This dome-shaped growth is usually found on sun-exposed skin and usually grows quickly at first, then slows down. Many shrink and go away on their own, but if they continue to grow, this tumor can turn into squamous cell carcinoma. They are usually removed surgically

Causes Of Skin Cancer

Both types of skin cancer occur when mutations develop in the DNA of your skin cells. These mutations cause skin cells to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells.

Basal cell skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds. UV rays can damage the DNA inside your skin cells, causing the unusual cell growth. Squamous cell skin cancer is also caused by UV exposure.

Squamous cell skin cancer can also develop after long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. It can develop within a burn scar or ulcer, and may also be caused by some types of human papillomavirus .

The cause of melanoma is unclear. Most moles dont turn into melanomas, and researchers arent sure why some do. Like basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma can be caused by UV rays. But melanomas can develop in parts of your body that arent typically exposed to sunlight.

Your recommended treatment plan will depend on different factors, like the size, location, type, and stage of your skin cancer. After considering these factors, your healthcare team may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

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How Dangerous Is Melanoma

Melanoma is usually curable when detected and treated early. Once melanoma has spread deeper into the skin or other parts of the body, it becomes more difficult to treat and can be deadly.

  • The estimated five-year survival rate for U.S. patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99 percent.
  • An estimated 7,180 people will die of melanoma in the U.S. in 2021.

Why Does Skin Cancer Occur In More Non

Skin Cancer: What Causes it and Who is at Risk? – Mayo Clinic

Scientists dont fully know why people of skin with color develop cancer in non-sun-exposed areas, such as their hands and feet. They think that the sun is less of a factor though. However, dermatologists still see plenty of UV sunlight-induced melanomas and squamous cell skin cancer in people of color, in skin tones ranging from fair to very dark.

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Signs Of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma most commonly looks like a small open sore. It could be red or pink in fair-skinned people and brown in people of color. It may present as a red patch or bump on the skin. BCC often has a raised or rolled border around the sore and may bleed or crust over. It can present differently in each individual.

BCC is usually found on areas of the body exposed to the sun like the face, ears, neck, scalp, and shoulders. If you have experienced an open sore that doesn’t heal or a red patch of skin that wont go away, its best to get it checked out. BCC can also look like a shiny, pearl-like growth or a waxy scar with undefined borders. The area may itch, be painful, or have no symptoms at all.

What Is A Melanocyte

Melanocytes are skin cells found in the upper layer of skin. They produce a pigment known as melanin, which gives skin its color. There are two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. When skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds, it causes skin damage that triggers the melanocytes to produce more melanin, but only the eumelanin pigment attempts to protect the skin by causing the skin to darken or tan. Melanoma occurs when DNA damage from burning or tanning due to UV radiation triggers changes in the melanocytes, resulting in uncontrolled cellular growth.

About Melanin

Naturally darker-skinned people have more eumelanin and naturally fair-skinned people have more pheomelanin. While eumelanin has the ability to protect the skin from sun damage, pheomelanin does not. Thats why people with darker skin are at lower risk for developing melanoma than fair-skinned people who, due to lack of eumelanin, are more susceptible to sun damage, burning and skin cancer.

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