Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. If you have skin cancer, it is important to know which type you have because it affects your treatment options and your outlook (prognosis). If you aren’t sure which type of skin cancer you have, ask your doctor so you can get the right information.
- Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
These cancers are most often found in areas exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms, but they also can occur elsewhere. They are very common but are also usually very treatable.
- Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is a much less common but more serious type of cancer. Melanomas are usually brown or black, but can appear pink, tan, or even white.
- Lymphoma of the Skin
Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune system. Rare lymphomas that start in the skin are called skin lymphomas (or cutaneous lymphomas).
Early detection can save your life.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, deaths from melanoma’s, the most dangerous type of skin cancers, accounts for 75% of deaths related to this type of cancer each and every year. Luckily there are many warning signs and skin cancer caught in the early stages is almost always cureable.
Regular skin exams are the best way to find this deadly disease in its earliest stages.; It displays warning signs in the form of moles, and growths, individuals with more than 50 moles should continue reading since you are at higher risk.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has developed the ABCDE’s of Early Detection. Using the first five letters of the alphabet, the Skin Cancer Foundation devised an easy way to guide us through the early warning signs of the cancer.
A – Asymmetry (if you draw a line through the mole the two sides won’t match)
B – Border (early melanoma moles have uneven edges)
C – Color (a variety of colors or shades of brown, tan or black is a warning sign; melanoma can also turn red, blue or some other abnormal color)
D – Diameter (melanomas are usually larger in diameter than the size of a pencil’s eraser – ¼ inch – but they may also be smaller when first detected)
E – Evolving (any change in size, shape, color, elevation or other trait – new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting – is a major red flag)
Who is at risk for skin cancer?
- Fair Skin
- History of Sun Burns
- Excessive sun exposure
- Sunny or high-altitude climates
- Pre-cancerous skin lesions
- Family history
- Personal history
- Weakened immune system
- Exposure to radiation
- Exposure to certain chemicals and organic substances
Fair skin. Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer. However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and blue, green or hazel colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you’re much more likely to develop skin cancer than is a person with darker skin. You always burn and never tan in the sun. Individuals in this class are extremely predisposed to skin damage as well as cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Individuals with fair skin are also at very extreme danger of contracting the melanoma form of cancer. Southern Tiers Dr.’s and practitioners suggest all patients follow The Skin Cancer Foundation’s prevention tips:
- Use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30+
- Wear clothing with a UPF rating of 30 or higher
- Seek the shade whenever you are out in the sun
- Check your skin head-to-toe each month, paying careful attention to any suspicious growths
- Make sure you have an annual professional skin checkup
History of sunburns. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. The two most common forms of non-melanoma cancers are Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma and can be directly attributed with ACCUMULATION of sun exposure over the course of years. While it is not impossible to get one of these forms of cancer in an area that is not exposed to the sun, the most common places for these types of cancers are:
- Back of neck
- Right forearm (drivers side)
- Tip of nose
Melanomas are quite different in that it is a pattern of brief, intense, blistering sunburns that lead to this deadly form of skin cancer. Of course there are other factors such as genetics, skin type, and a large number of moles over the entirety of the skin. If a close relative is diagnosed with melanoma, you have a 50-percent-greater chance of developing the disease. Melanoma may arise anywhere regardless if there has been previous sun exposure to the area or not. Simple tips provided by the Skin Cancer foundation:
- Do not burn
- Avoid sun-tanning and UV Tanning booths
- Use a sunscreen SPF 15+ daily
- Apply 2 tablespoons (approx. a palm-full) of sunscreen 30 min before you go outside & reapply regularly throughout the day
- Dress with long sleeves and broad brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your body from the dangerous rays of the sun
- Keep newborns and young children out of the sun, sunscreen should be used on children over the age of six months old.
- Perform regular full body skin checks – monthly
- See your physician every year for a full skin exam
Excessive Sun Exposure. Anyone who spends considerable time in the sun may develop skin cancer, especially if the skin isn’t protected by sunscreen or clothing. Tanning, including exposure to tanning lamps and beds, also puts you at risk. A tan is your skin’s injury response to excessive UV radiation.
Sunny or high-altitude climates. People who live in sunny, warm climates are exposed to more sunlight than are people who live in colder climates. Living at higher elevations, where the sunlight is strongest, also exposes you to more radiation.
Moles. People who have many moles or abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of skin cancer. These abnormal moles — which look irregular and are generally larger than normal moles — are more likely than others to become cancerous. If you have a history of abnormal moles, watch them regularly for changes.
Precancerous skin lesions. Having skin lesions known as actinic keratosis can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. These precancerous skin growths typically appear as rough, scaly patches that range in color from brown to dark pink. They’re most common on the face, head and hands of fair-skinned people whose skin has been sun damaged.
A family history of skin cancer. If one of your parents or a sibling has had skin cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease.
A personal history of skin cancer. If you developed skin cancer once, you’re at risk of developing it again. Even basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas that have been successfully removed can recur.
A weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS or leukemia and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.
Exposure to radiation. People who received radiation treatment for skin conditions such as eczema and acne may have an increased risk of skin cancer, particularly basal cell carcinoma.
Exposure to certain substances. Exposure to certain substances, such as arsenic, may increase your risk of skin cancer.