Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, affecting an estimated one in five Americans over the course of their lives. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (most common type), squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma (most deadly/serious form of skin cancer). The majority of skin cancer is caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, both natural and artificial.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. BCC most often develops on the face, scalp, ears, chest, back and legs in patients who get intense, intermittent sun exposure (to the point of burning). The most common presentation of a BCC is a shiny or pearly white bump on the skin. Another common presentation is a sore or growth that bleeds and heals, only to recur again. BCCs can also look like red patches or scars and can even appear pigmented. BCC is typically a slow growing cancer, and it rarely spreads to other areas of the body. If left untreated, BCC can grow, ulcerate, destroy healthy tissue surrounding it and become disfiguring. The good news is that BCC is highly curable with treatment. Unfortunately, if you have had one basal cell carcinoma, the likelihood of having a second is 40% within the next five years.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. They typically appear as red crusted or scaly patches on the skin, open/non-healing sores, elevated growths with central depression or warty growths. SCC is caused by cumulative sun exposure over the course of a lifetime and is most commonly found on the face, neck, arms, scalp, backs of hands and ears. Often the skin in these areas exhibits other signs of sun damage, including wrinkles, pigment changes, freckles, broken blood vessels, etc. SCC can also occur on the lips, inside the mouth, on the genitalia or other areas of the body. SCC can be more aggressive, depending on the specific type and location, and in some cases can spread to other parts of the body. With early diagnosis and treatment, SCC is also highly curable. However, if detected late or untreated, they can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer. Melanomas can occur spontaneously but they can also develop from an existing mole. They most frequently appear on the back, torso, legs, head and neck. The majority of melanomas are brown or black, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red purple, blue or white. If melanoma is detected and treated before it reaches the lymph nodes, melanoma it is almost always curable (99% five-year survival rate). If not detected early when it is superficial in the skin, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body where it becomes harder to treat and can even be fatal.
Melanoma can affect anyone but certain people are at higher risk. Risk factors that increase the incidence of Melanoma include fair skin, light-colored eyes, and red/blonde hair. You are also more likely to develop melanoma if you have more than 50 moles, have large and/or atypical moles, or have a blood relative who has had melanoma. Lastly, the risk increases significantly if you have already had a melanoma but also increases if you have had either a basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma.
Recognition of changes in the skin is the best way to detect early melanoma. The ABCDE method of melanoma detection may help identify an abnormal growth on your skin that may be melanoma:
A – Asymmetry – One half does not match the other half.
B – Border Irregularity – The edges are not smooth, they may be ragged, notched or blurred.
C – Color – The pigmentation is not uniform, different shades of tan, brown or black are often present. Red, white or blue can add to the appearance.
D – Diameter – The spot is larger than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser).
E – Evolving – A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the others of is changing in size, shape, color or texture.
If you have a changing mole, a new mole or a mole that is different, make an appointment to see a dermatologist as soon as possible.
Dermatologist in Delray Beach, FL, 6140 West Atlantic Avenue, Delray Beach, FL 33484
1 (888) 357-DERM • (561) 498-4407