Types of Skin Cancer
Actinic Keratosis (AK)
These appear as dry, scaly spots. They are considered the earliest stage of skin cancer. AKs can progress to Squamous Cell Carcinoma, so they are usually treated. They form on skin that gets a lot of sun exposure, such as face, scalp, neck, forearms and hands.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
This is the most common type of skin cancer, and, in fact, is the most common type of cancer in the world. It presents as a white or pearly bump that may bleed if disturbed. BCC develops in sun exposed areas. If left untreated, it will enlarge and may damage normal structures in the area. It almost never spreads to distant parts of the body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
This is the second most common type of skin cancer. It usually presents as a red, scaly area that may or may not be tender. If left untreated, it will grow larger. If left too long, or if the growth pattern (determined by biopsy) is aggressive, this type of cancer can spread to lymph nodes and other parts of the body. Most often, however, it does not.
This cancer is less common, but is the most serious of the three. It usually presents as a new or changing mole, but can present as a red bump. Depending on the depth of the tumor (determined by biopsy) and growth pattern, it can spread rapidly to lymph nodes, the lungs or the brain. Most melanomas spread laterally for some time, making the likelihood of catching it at an early stage greater. Some, however, start their lives growing deep and fast, and even with early intervention, may spread.
In most patients these three types of skin cancer are associated with past and current sun exposure. It is important that you protect yourself from the sun, to help prevent further skin cancers or pre-cancerous changes. If you have had one of these cancers, you will need follow-up visits to a dermatologist throughout your life. This is to check for new cancers and to make sure the original cancer does not recur.
What are the warning signs of Melanoma?
A change in an existing mole or a new dark mole that develops is often a first sign of melanoma. The ABCDE warning signs of melanoma can help detect change:
- A - Asymmetry
- B - Border irregularity
- C - Color change
- D - Diameter >6mm
- E - Evolution or change in an existing mole
Sun Exposure, light skin, family history of skin cancer, types of moles, number of moles Regular Skin Exams are Important With early detection and treatment, the cure rate for SCC and BCC is 95%. If melanoma is detected before it spreads, the cure is also high. Regular skin exams by a dermatologist help patients find skin cancer when they are most treatable. Younger patients are developing skin cancer because of tanning bed use. If anyone has had a significant tanning bed use history, they should be screened in their 30s.