Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
Basal cell cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in the world. In most people, it’s slow growing, usually doesn’t 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 (SCC) of the skin
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. 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 is often called “the most serious skin cancer” because it has a tendency to spread and can develop in any area of your body. It can even form on your eyes and internal organs. The upper back is a common site in men; legs are a common site in women. This is the most serious type of skin cancer because it can spread to other areas of your body.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma include:
- A brown-pigmented patch or bump.
- A mole that changes in color, size or that bleeds.
Thinking of the ABCDE rule tells you what signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry: irregular shape.
- Border: blurry or irregularly shaped edges.
- Color: mole with more than one color.
- Diameter: larger than a pencil eraser (6 mm).
- Evolution: enlarging, changing in shape, color, or size. (This is the most important sign.)
Also be aware of pre-cancerous skin growths
Be alert to pre-cancerous skin lesions, known as dysplastic moles. These can develop into melanoma. They are typically small dark flat moles that are changing in size, shape and color and are most often found on surfaces of the skin chronically exposed to the sun, such as the face and backs of the hands.
Some people develop dry, scaly patches or spots on their skin called Actinic Keratoses (AKs). They are caused by too much sun, but an AK is not skin cancer. An AK is a precancerous skin growth that can turn into a common type of skin cancer if not removed.
Signs and symptoms of Actinic Keratoses include:
- AK is a scaly or crusty bump on the skin’s surface and is usually dry and rough. It can be flat. An actinic keratosis is often noticed more by touch than sight.
- It may be the same color as your skin, or it may be light, dark, tan, pink, red or a combination of colors.
- It can itch or produce a prickling or tender sensation.
- These skin abnormalities can become inflamed and be encircled with redness. Rarely, they bleed.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment. Proper sun protection helps reduce risk!
If you have a mole or other skin lesion that is causing you concern, schedule an appointment online at Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center or by calling 330-425-7600.