Types of Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer is the abnormal growth of cells. Most commonly developed due to over exposure to the sun, there are three major classifications of skin cancer.
Recognizing the potential signs of each of these types is crucial to early detection. The skin cancer removal techniques in use at our La Jolla practice are highly effective, but the only patients who can benefit from them are those who recognize the development of a cancerous spot and bring it to a physician’s attention.
Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin including:
Skin cancer is prevalent among women who enjoy sunbathing or men who work outdoors. It is possible to form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.
Despite, popular understanding, skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), can take many forms and grows very slowly, rarely metastasizing. However, it will cause extensive damage to skin tissue over time, if left untreated, so early detection and prompt treatment are recommended. BCC tumors usually appear in places that receive frequent sun exposure, such as the face, arms, and hands.
Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
Squamous Cell Caricnoma
Far less common than BCC, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is usually found in very fair-skinned patients who have had a good deal of sun exposure over a long period of time. It is also most commonly found in areas that are regularly exposed to the sun, although they can potentially appear anywhere on the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:
- A firm, red nodule
- A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
The rarest but most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma. Because it grows and spreads quickly, early detection is crucial to successful skin cancer removal. Melanoma usually develops in an existing mole or appears as a new mole.
Melanoma signs include:
- A large brownish spot with darker speckles
- A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds
- A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, white, blue or blue-black
- Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus
Recognizing Skin Cancer
The key to recognizing the signs of skin cancer is to know your own skin. Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and in the lights used in tanning beds. But sun exposure doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. This indicates that other factors may contribute to your risk of skin cancer, such as being exposed to toxic substances or having a condition that weakens your immune system.
A Basal Cell Carcinoma tumor is rarely discolored and can appear as a hard, shiny bump, a recurring sore, a waxy-looking scar, or a patch of reddened, irritated skin.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is easier to identify, almost always appearing as an inflamed area of skin with a crusty or scaly covering.
For signs of melanoma, it is important to take notice of any moles that suddenly appear or change in appearance, especially if they are large, have irregular edges, or are uneven in color.
When in doubt, it is always best to visit a dermatologist to determine whether a skin problem is cancerous or benign. Skin cancer removal is always easiest to accomplish when the condition is recognized at an early stage.
Because melanoma tends to develop in pre-existing or new moles, it is crucial to perform regular self-examinations to check for changing or newly formed moles. A comprehensive self-check can be performed by following the ABCDs of melanoma detection:
- Asymmetry:Melanoma lesions typically have uneven and unmatching halves.
- Border: Melanoma lesions often have irregular, blurred, or ambiguous borders.
- Color:Melanoma typically consists of more than one color.
- Diameter:Melanomas are normally larger than 6 mm in diameter, but they can often be smaller. Check for moles that are unlike other moles on your body.
- You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
- Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages.
- Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.
Skin Cancer Removal
Treatment options for skin cancer and the precancerous skin lesions known as actinic keratoses will vary, depending on the size, type, depth and location of the lesions. Small skin cancers limited to the surface of the skin may not require treatment beyond an initial skin biopsy that removes the entire growth. The most common ways for removal include:
- Freezing destroys actinic keratoses and some small, early skin cancers by freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery). The dead tissue sloughs off when it thaws.
- Excisional surgerymay be appropriate for any type of skin cancer. The cancerous tissue and surrounding margin of health skin will be cut out. A wide excision — removing extra normal skin around the tumor — may be recommended in some cases.
The removal of skin cancer is generally achieved through surgical excision. A specialized technique allows for total skin cancer removal in 97 to 99 percent of cases, with minimal damage to surrounding tissue.