Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is also the one least likely to spread, although it can cause permanent disfigurement of the affected areas if not caught early. It can best be prevented by limiting exposure to the sun, using sunscreen and avoiding tanning beds. Risk factors include light-colored skin, sun exposure and age.
- Usually begins as a small, round bump
- The texture of the bump is smooth and translucent, often described as pearly
- They often grow very slowly over the course of months or years and if not removed early, can cause permanent disfigurement of the affected area.
Dermatologists often use a small, spoon-like tool called a curette to cut out the growth. In some cases, cryosurgery, or the application of liquid nitrogen to the affected area, can also remove the carcinoma. In both of these treatments, stitches are not usually necessary. In difficult to reach locations or in larger carcinomas, surgical removal or radiation may be necessary.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs much less often than basal cell carcinoma, but it can spread to other parts of the body, making it considerably more dangerous. The single greatest risk factor is sun exposure.
- A growing bump with a rough, scaly surface that is red or skin-colored
- Most commonly occurs on the face, ears, neck, hands or arms, but may occur elsewhere
- Earliest form appears as scaly, crusted reddish patch on skin
Although treatment can vary depending on the size and location of the skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma is typically treated with techniques similar to those used in the treatment of basal cell carcinoma.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer because it may spread to other areas of the body, causing serious illness and death. It develops in the pigment cells of the skin and often grows quickly. People with fair skin, many moles or a history of intense exposure to the sun are at the greatest risk.
- Typically appears as a black, blue or ugly-looking mole
Use the ABCD method:
- Asymmetry-Is the shape on one side uneven with the other?
- Border-Are the edges rough, blurred or irregular?
- Color-Is the mole odd or uneven shades of black, blue or tan?
- Diameter-Has it increased in size over recent weeks or months?
Surgery is the first treatment for all stages of melanoma, followed by chemotherapy and radiation when necessary.