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What Is Skin Cancer Like

Explore Your Treatment Options In Advance

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

When it comes to treating skin cancer, especially on the face, many patients worry about the invasiveness of common procedures like Mohs surgery, which could leave a scar. Fortunately, there are other, less invasive treatment methods to consider. Knowing your options ahead of time will help you to feel better prepared to make a decision. Image Guided Superficial Radiotherapy is a non-invasive alternative for treating non-melanoma skin cancers like Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma. If you would like to learn more about how IG-SRT works, please call GentleCure at 312-987-6543 to speak with a skin cancer information specialist.

Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer

Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.

Basal Cell Skin Cancer

Basal cell cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it typically develops on areas regularly exposed to the sun. This type of cancer may appear on your face, neck, or other body parts in the form of:

  • Flat patches of spots, or lesions, which may be red, purple, or brown in color

  • Slightly raised, brown or reddish lesions

  • Fully raised, bumpy lesions with a red or brown color

If you think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms of different skin cancers described above, you should call a doctor to discuss your symptoms. You may find that you simply have a large, non-cancerous mole, and can have your concerns put to rest by a professional. On the other hand, your doctor may be able to diagnose your condition and recommend treatment sooner rather than later. Either way, it is best to be on the side of caution and speak with your doctor about what youve noticed.

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Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs And Symptoms

This type of cancer is usually found on sun-exposed areas of the skin like the scalp, forehead, face, nose, neck and back.

Basal cell carcinomas may bleed after a minor injury but then scab and heal. This can happen over and over for months or years with no visible growth, making it easy to mistake them for wounds or sores. They rarely cause pain in their earliest stages.

Appearance

In addition to the bleeding and healing, these are other possible signs of a basal cell cancer:

  • A persistent open sore that does not heal and bleeds, crusts or oozes.
  • A reddish patch or irritated area that may crust or itch.
  • A shiny bump or nodule that is pearly or translucent and often pink, red or white. It can also be tan, black or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and easy to confuse with a mole.
  • A pink growth with a slightly elevated, rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. Tiny blood vessels may appear on the surface as the growth enlarges.
  • A scar-like lesion in an area that you have not injured. It may be white, yellow or waxy, often with poorly defined borders. The skin seems shiny and tight sometimes this can be a sign of an aggressive tumor.

What Causes Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Symptoms: How to Check for Moles

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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Causes Of Skin Cancer

Different forms of skin cancer develop when there are mutations in the DNA of skin cells. Skin cancer begins with a mutation in the epidermis, which is the top layer of the skin. Cells begin to multiply and grow out of control, eventually forming a cancerous mass.

While various risk factors have been identified, it is not always apparent what factor actually causes skin cell DNA to mutate.

One cause of skin cancer that is clear is exposure to sunlight . The ultraviolet rays in sunlight and tanning beds can cause extensive damage to the DNA in skin cells. In turn, these damaged cells may someday become cancerous. Harmful UV radiation can occur relatively soon before the appearance of skin cancer, but it can also pre-date a cancer diagnosis by many years.

However, UV radiation cant explain skin cancers that occur on body parts that arent exposed to the sun. This suggests that different causes exist for certain cases of skin cancer. Among these causes, for instance, may be a drastic or repeated exposure to toxic substances.

In some cases, a person may inherit genes that lead to melanoma. Certain gene changes received from a parent could cause a failure in the body to control unruly cell growth, eventually resulting in melanoma. These inherited, or familial, melanomas are relatively rare.

What Exams And Tests Diagnose Skin Cancer

If you have a worrisome mole or other lesion, your primary-care provider will probably refer you to a dermatologist. The dermatologist will examine any moles in question and, in many cases, the entire skin surface.

  • Any lesions that are difficult to identify, or are thought to be skin cancer, may then be checked.
  • A sample of skin will be taken so that the suspicious area of skin can be examined under a microscope.
  • A biopsy can almost always be done in the dermatologist’s office.

If a biopsy shows that you have malignant melanoma, you will probably undergo further testing to determine the extent of spread of the disease, if any. This may involve blood tests, a chest X-ray, and other tests as needed.

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Less Common Skin Cancers

Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposi’s sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.

How Common Is Skin Cancer

What does skin cancer look like?

Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.

Other skin cancer facts:

  • Around 20% of Americans develop skin cancer sometime in their life.
  • Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
  • Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that the five-year survival rate is 99% if caught and treated early.
  • Non-Hispanic white persons have almost a 30 times higher rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander persons.
  • Skin cancer in people with skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat. Some 25% of melanoma cases in African Americans are diagnosed when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.

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What Causes Skin Cancer In A Child

Exposure to sunlight is the main factor for skin cancer. Skin cancer is more common in people with light skin, light-colored eyes, and blond or red hair. Other risk factors include:

  • Age. Your risk goes up as you get older.

  • Family history of skin cancer

  • Having skin cancer in the past

  • Time spent in the sun

  • Using tanning beds or lamps

  • History of sunburns

  • Having atypical moles . These large, oddly shaped moles run in families.

  • Radiation therapy in the past

  • Taking a medicine that suppresses the immune system

  • Certain rare, inherited conditions such as basal cell nevus syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum

  • HPV infection

  • Actinic keratoses or Bowen disease. These are rough or scaly red or brown patches on the skin.

The Four Major Types Of Melanoma

Melanoma can be divided into different subtypes. A few of the most common subtypes are:

  • Superficial spreading melanoma.Superficial spreading melanoma is the most common type of melanoma. Lesions are usually flat, irregular in shape, and contain varying shades of black and brown. It can occur at any age.
  • Lentigo maligna melanoma. Lentigo maligna melanoma usually affects adults over 65 and involves large, flat, brownish lesions.
  • Nodular melanoma.Nodular melanoma can be dark blue, black, or reddish-blue, but may have no color at all. It usually starts as a raised patch.
  • Acral lentiginous melanoma.Acral lentiginous melanoma is the least common type. Typically it affects the palms, soles of the feet, or under finger and toenails.

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How Do People Find Bcc On Their Skin

Many people find it when they notice a spot, lump, or scaly patch on their skin that is growing or feels different from the rest of their skin. If you notice any spot on your skin that is growing, bleeding, or changing in any way, see a board-certified dermatologist. These doctors have the most training and experience in diagnosing skin cancer.

To find skin cancer early, dermatologists recommend that everyone check their own skin with a skin self-exam. This is especially important for people who have a higher risk of developing BCC. Youll find out what can increase your risk of getting this skin cancer at, Basal cell carcinoma: Who gets and causes.

Images used with permission of:

  • The American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.

  • J Am Acad Dermatol. 2019 80:303-17.

Types Of Skin Malignancies:

Pictures of skin cancer: what does skin cancer look like
  • Melanoma the least common form of skin cancer, but responsible for more deaths per year than squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers combined. Melanoma is also more likely to spread and may be harder to control.
  • Nonmelanoma malignancies:
    • Squamous cell cancer the second-most common skin cancer. It’s more aggressive and may require extensive surgery, depending on location and nerve involvement.
    • Basal cell cancer the most common form of skin cancer. It is rarely fatal but can be locally aggressive.

These skin malignancies are typically caused by ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun and tanning beds.

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A Dangerous Skin Cancer

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that begins in cells known as melanocytes. While it is less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma , melanoma is more dangerous because of its ability to spread to other organs more rapidly if it is not treated at an early stage.

Learn more about melanoma types, risk factors, causes, warning signs and treatment.

Melanoma Fact

Only 20-30% of melanomas are found in existing moles.

While 70-80% arise on normal-looking skin.

What You Can Do

If youve already had a BCC, you have an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same sun-damaged area or nearby.

A BCC can recur even when it has been carefully removed the first time, because some cancer cells may remain undetectable after surgery and others can form roots that extend beyond whats visible. BCCs on the nose, ears and lips are more likely to recur, usually within the first two years after surgery.

Heres what you can do to detect a recurrence and safeguard yourself against further skin damage that can lead to cancer:

Reviewed by:

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What Are The Signs Of Skin Cancer

The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on your skin, typically a new growth, or a change in an existing growth or mole. The signs and symptoms of common and less common types of skin cancers are described below.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in the world. In most people, its slow growing, usually doesnt spread to other parts of the body and is not life-threatening.

Signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • A small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, and neck.
  • A flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
  • Areas on the skin that look like scars.
  • Sores that look crusty, have a depression in the middle or bleed often.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell cancer is most commonly seen on sun-exposed areas of skin including your hands, face, arms, legs, ears, mouths, and even bald spots on the top of your head. This skin cancer can also form in areas such as mucus membranes and genitals.

Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • A firm pink or red nodule.
  • A rough, scaly lesion that might itch, bleed and become crusty.

Melanoma

Signs and symptoms of melanoma include:

  • A brown-pigmented patch or bump.
  • A mole that changes in color, size or that bleeds.

Can You Get A Spot In Your Ear

What skin cancer looks like

A pimple will form in your ear if the oil is unable to escape or bacteria grows in a clogged pore. A buildup in bacteria can be caused by a few things, such as sticking your finger in your ear or using earbuds or headphones that arent cleaned often. Other causes of acne include stress and a hormonal imbalance.

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What Is Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma begins in the basal cell layer of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous layer of the skin. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells that make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.

Basal cell carcinoma begins in the basal cell layer of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma begins in the squamous layer of the skin. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells that make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.

The skin is the bodys largest organ. Skin has several layers, but the two main layers are the epidermis and the dermis . Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, which is made up of three kinds of cells

  • Squamous cells: Thin, flat cells that form the top layer of the epidermis.
  • Basal cells: Round cells under the squamous cells.
  • Melanocytes: Cells that make melanin and are found in the lower part of the epidermis. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color. When skin is exposed to the sun, melanocytes make more pigment and cause the skin to darken.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas are the two most common types of skin cancer. They begin in the basal and squamous layers of the skin, respectively. Both can usually be cured, but they can be disfiguring and expensive to treat.

What Is The Follow

Most skin cancer is cured surgically in the dermatologist’s office. Of skin cancers that do recur, most do so within three years. Therefore, follow up with your dermatologist as recommended. Make an appointment immediately if you suspect a problem.

If you have a more deeply invasive or advanced malignant melanoma, your oncologist may want to see you every few months. These visits may include total body skin examinations, regional lymph node checks, and periodic chest X-rays. Over time, the intervals between follow-up appointments will increase. Eventually these checks may be done only once a year.

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When To See A Doctor About Skin Cancer

Many people, especially those who have fair coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, should periodically check their entire body for suggestive moles and lesions.

Have your primary healthcare professional or a skin specialist check any moles or spots that concern you.

See your healthcare professional to check your skin if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or texture of pigmented areas .

If you have skin cancer, your skin specialist or cancer specialist will talk to you about symptoms of metastatic disease that might require care in a hospital.

What Does Skin Cancer In Cats Look Like

Examples

Because most cats are covered in fur, it can be difficult to notice the signs of skin cancer in cats. Its a good idea to examine your cat semi-regularly to see if something is amiss. Heres what to look for:

  • Sores: If your cat develops a sore that does not go away, or a sore that bleeds but does not fully heal, it may be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Growths: Any growth or tumor on your cat should be examined by a vet. A growth in an area where the cats hair has turned white is likely a pre-cancerous or cancerous growth.
  • Changes in Skin or Hair: Bowens disease is an early form of skin cancer that reveals itself through a section of the skin that changes color and develops an ulcer in the center, crusting near the sore, and hair falling out around the sore.

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What Can I Do To Prevent Skin Cancer In My Child

The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation advise you to:

  • Limit how much sun your child gets between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Put it on the skin of children older than 6 months of age who are exposed to the sun.

  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days. Reapply after swimming.

  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. They reflect the damaging rays of the sun. This can increase the chance of sunburn.

  • Make sure your child wears clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Hats should provide shade for both the face, ears, and back of the neck. Wearing sunglasses will reduce the amount of rays reaching the eye and protect the lids of the eyes, as well as the lens.

  • Dont let your child use or be around sunlamps or tanning beds.

The American Academy of Pediatrics approves of the use of sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old if adequate clothing and shade are not available. You should still try to keep your baby out of the sun. Dress the baby in lightweight clothing that covers most surface areas of skin. But you also may use a small amount of sunscreen on the babys face and back of the hands.

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