Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells, and is the most common and treatable type of cancer that people develop. Though people of all skin colors can get skin cancer, individuals with light skin that sunburns easily are at higher risk. In addition to sun exposure, other risk factors are a family history of skin cancer, certain genetic disorders, exposure to x-rays, scarring from a disease or burn, and exposure to cancer-causing compounds such as arsenic.
There are several different types of skin cancers including actinic keratoses (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Each can be identified through unique characteristics.
It is important to understand the warning signs of skin cancer and to protect yourself from the sun as a preventative measure. If detected early and properly treated, the cure rate is high for skin cancer. Dr. Davis can diagnose and treat skin cancer to ensure a good recovery.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
Actinic Keratoses (AK)
Actinic keratoses present as dry, scaly red patches or spots on areas of the skin that receive lots of sun exposure (such as the head, neck, hands, and forearms). AKs usually appear in people with fair skin who are over 40 years old, but younger people can also develop them if they live in warm, sunny climates or if they use indoor tanning machines. AKs can transform into another type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, so early treatment is important.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
A basal cell carcinoma presents as a skin-colored, pearl-like bump or as a pink patch of skin. It will often crust or bleed, especially if “nicked” during shaving. BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, usually developing in people with fair skin, but it can also occur in people with dark skin. It appears in areas of the skin that receive high sun exposure such as the face, neck, arms, trunk, and lower limbs. It is unlikely that BCC will spread to other parts of the body, but it can grow into the surrounding tissue, nerves, and bones. Therefore, it is important to treat BCCs as soon as possible.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
A squamous cell carcinoma presents as a firm bump, a scaly crusted patch, or an ulcer that heals and then re-opens. SCCs occur more frequently on people with fair complexions, but can also occur in people with dark skin. They appear on skin that is most often exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, arms, trunk, and rim of the ear. SCC needs to be treated early on or it can spread and grow in the surrounding tissue.
Melanoma is the most serious and deadliest form of skin cancer. It often appears either as a sudden new dark spot or in and around a mole. It is important to recognize the warning signs (ABCDE Warning Signs) and perform periodic self-examinations of your skin. Melanoma can appear anywhere on the skin, but most commonly, it appears in areas exposed to the sun, such as the arms, legs, back, and face. Melanomas can also develop in less exposed areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and fingernail beds. These “hidden” melanomas are more common in individuals with darker skin. Melanoma can spread to lymph nodes and travel to distant organs (metastasize). If melanoma is diagnosed and treated early before it spreads, there is a high cure rate.
What are the warning signs of skin cancer?
A new mole or changes in existing moles are usually the first sign of melanoma. An easy way to remember the warning signs is by using the ABCDE warning signs.
ABCDE’s of Melanoma Warning signs:
Border that is irregular or poorly defined
Color variation from one part of the mole to another (shades of tan, brown, and black; sometimes white, red, or blue)
Diameter that is larger than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser). However, when diagnosed, they can be smaller
Evolving mole; a mole that looks different from other moles or is changing over time in size, shape, or color.