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What types of skin cancer are there?
Posted by Dr. Robert Levine

What types of skin cancer are there?
Posted by Dr. Robert Levine on March 22, 2022

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but what does it look like? While usually caused by prolonged exposure to the sun, this common-but-deadly condition can be hard to spot, and it’s essential to be educated on skin cancer to look out for your health.

There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma

This kind of cancer frequently occurs in those with fair skin, although those with darker complexions may develop it also. It appears on areas of the skin often exposed to the sun, and those who have spent tanning on the beach or in sunbeds are particularly susceptible. Basal cell carcinoma presents in several different ways: it may look like a pearly white bump, a flesh-colored growth that changes, or a sore that doesn’t heal

It’s crucial to catch basal cell carcinoma early because, if left untreated, it can grow deep, penetrating nerves and bone and causing permanent deformity.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma, is the second most common type of skin cancer, and like basal cell carcinoma, it frequently occurs in light-skinned individuals who have spent a lot of time in the sun. When it develops, it can appear as a red bump, a scaly patch, or a sore that opens, heals, and then re-opens again. Also, like basal cell carcinoma, it needs to be detected and treated quickly, so it doesn’t grow deep into the skin and cause disfigurement.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer due to its tendency to spread. It can be tricky to notice because it can frequently develop in a mole you already have or appear as a new dark spot on the skin. Be careful to examine your skin for any new marks on your skin and contact your dermatologist if you suspect one is abnormal.

The American Academy of Dermatology’s A-B-C-D-E rules for spotting melanoma can help you spot melanoma in time to get essential care. If you notice a mole has changed shape or a new dark spot has formed, check for the following “rules of thumb”:

Melanoma asymmetry small photo

  • Asymmetry – Is the new mark asymmetrical? If one half of the spot is unlike the other half, the mark may need further examination.

Melanoma border small photo

  • Border – An irregular or ill-defined border is another warning sign of melanoma. If the edges are not smooth take notice and contact a dermatologist.

Melanoma color small photo

  • Color – Is the mark one solid color, or does it contain varying shades of tan, brown, black, white, or red? Benign skin marks are often one solid color, so color variation is cause for concern.

Melanoma diameter small photo

  • Diameter – Melanomas are usually 6mm or bigger. This is about the size of a pencil eraser, so it may need to be looked at if the spot is bigger than that. Although if you suspect the mark for other reasons, don’t hesitate to get it checked out just because it’s tiny! Early detection can save your life!

Melanoma evolution small photo

  • Evolution – Contact your dermatologist immediately if you have a mark that you notice is evolving or changing over time.

Remembering the A-B-C-D-E rules can save your life, so examine yourself frequently and report any irregularities to your dermatologist.

Skin cancer is scary, but much of it is preventable and treatable with the proper care. Avoid overexposure to the sun, always wear sunscreen, and if you notice abnormal marks on your skin, report it to your dermatologist right away. Additionally, full-body examinations are offered for early detection and prevention.

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