Skin Cancer Types

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70. Every year about 3.3 million Americans are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer. Nonmelanoma skin cancers include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. About 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year. Early detection of skin cancer is essential to a cure.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 80% of nonmelanoma skin cancers. It usually develops in people with fair skin but can occur in people of color. It is uncontrolled growth of abnormal basal cells in the outermost layer of skin. UV light damages the skin’s DNA.

  • BCC is caused by years of frequent sun exposure, and is commonly found on the face, nose, chest, neck and back of the hands. Tanning beds create an increased risk of BCC.
  • BCC is slow growing and rarely spreads but can grow deep and wide destroying tissue and bone, causing disfigurement.
  • Early warning signs:
    • a sore that doesn’t heal, appears to heal, and returns or oozes and crusts
    • a red patch or irritated area that can crust, itch hurt or cause no symptoms
    • a shiny bump or nodule that is clear, pink red or white
    • a small pink growth that is slightly raised with rolled edges and an indentation that may contain tiny blood vessels
    • a white, yellow or waxy flat, scar-like area with poorly defined borders
    • in people of color the BCC can look brown in color

Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma (cSCC)

cSCC is uncontrolled growth of abnormal squamous cells in the outermost layer of skin. It is called cutaneous SCC because SCC can also arise inside the body. Cutaneous means skin.

cSCC affects fair skinned people and people of color. People with fair skin over age 50 are the most commonly affected. Men are more likely to develop cSCC. SCC can develop on sun exposed skin anywhere including on the lips and genitals. It is often found in skin that contains evidence of sun damage, including wrinkles and age spots. cSCC can form in scars

  • cSCC is caused by cumulative, long term exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds that damages the skin DNA. A weakened immune system, a history of HPV or a previous skin cancer, and aging increase the risk of cSCC.
  • cSCC can grow rapidly, invade the deeper skin layers and spread to other areas of the body if undetected and untreated. When caught early and treated it is highly curable.
  • cSCC lesions look like scaly, red patches, open sores, rough wart-like skin or raised growths that don’t heal and can bleed or itch.

Malignant Melanoma (MM)

Malignant melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and can spread to other organs rapidly if not treated early. MM develops in skin cells called melanocytes, the cells that give the skin its color. It is 20x more common in whites than people of color. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 65, but it is also the most common cancer in people younger than age 30, especially women.

30% of MM develops in a mole or birthmark. 70% of MM develops as a new mole or suspicious lesion and is more dangerous than melanoma that develops in an existing mole. People with many moles or a family history have an increased risk. A previous skin cancer, a weakened immune system and HIV infection are risk factors. The rest arise in normal looking skin.

MM is commonly found on the chest and back in men, and on the arms and legs of women, but can also occur on the palms and soles of the feet. It can even form under a toenail or fingernail and in the mouth, vagina, anus or eye.

  • MM is caused by intense UV exposure, especially sunburns. However, MM can develop on any part of the body, including areas not usually exposed to the sun.

Conduct a self-exam of your skin every month. When you have a concern about a mole or spot contact Dr. Anna Chaco. Don’t delay. Early diagnosis and treatment can cure your skin cancer.

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