There are 3 main types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. We will give a (relatively) brief introduction to each so that you are aware (it’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month after all!). Links will be provided to official sites for more information.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BSS) is the most common form of cancer (not just of skin cancer, but of ALL types of cancers) in the United States with over 2 million cases per year (in the US). This type of skin cancer starts in the basal cell layer of the skin, which is the lowest layer of the epidermis. While slow-growing and rarely fatal, at advanced stages BCC can cause serious damage to important structures such as the eyes, ears and mouth.
BCC often looks like other skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, which is why skin checks are so important. It may look like: (a) pink or skin-colored, dome-shaped growth (b) shiny pink or red patch of skin (c) white, yellow or skin-colored scar-like growth
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a form of skin cancer that starts in the squamous cell layer of the skin, which is the uppermost layer of the epidermis. Although mostly a slow-growing cancer, these can appear & grow quickly. SCC is very treatable if detected early. If left untreated, it can cause disfigurement of the area and can be fatal in some cases.
Some of the signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma include: (a) rough bump or other wart-like growth; (b) a sore that does not heal, or keeps returning; (c) a scaly, reddish patch of skin that grows slowly. This type is referred to as Bowen’s Disease, and looks similar to psoriasis or eczema.
Melanoma is the third type of skin cancer, and also the most deadly. Melanoma is an aggressive form of skin cancer that starts in the melanocytes (the cells that produce skin pigment) in the basal layer of the skin. It occurs when there is DNA damage to the cells (typically caused by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds) that the body cannot repair, that then causes cell mutations leading to tumors. If caught in-situ, melanoma is highly treatable, but as it metastasizes and advances into later stages (melanoma is stages I-IV just like other major cancers), it can be very deadly.
Melanomas are usually black or brown, resembling moles. They may also be pink, skin-colored, red, purple, blue or white. The ABCDEs of skin cancer (which we will talk about in our next post) are primarily for identifying melanomas.
For More Information on Melanoma: