The Many Faces of Skin Cancer

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Skin cancers can have an innocent appearance, so it's possible that even someone who takes good care of his or her skin may not realize how important it is to get a lesion, mark, or mole checked out by an expert. If it turns out to be a skin cancer, every day you wait will allow the cancer to grow larger, making its treatment more difficult. While there are many different treatment options for skin cancers, if surgical removal is necessary, you want the cancer to be as small as possible.

Note that your esthetician may be aware of skin cancer symptoms and may be able to alert you to a change in your skin; however, he or she is not allowed by the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. It arises from the outer layer of the skin and it has a strong relationship to sun exposure. It usually invades and destroys tissue only in the area where it is; spreading to another part of the body is rare. A typical BCC has a pearly or waxy nodule with a rolled border and tiny spider veins on and around it.

Squamous Cell

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of malignant skin cancer.  There should  be a  diagnosis made. Your practitioner may, though, be able to provide you with an appropriate referral to a dermatologist or other physician.

Following is a brief overview of the most common types of skin cancer. Additional details can be found at  It is also most commonly seen on sun-damaged skin, but it can arise without sun exposure or from various preexisting skin lesions, such as actinic keratoses, burn scars, radiation-exposed or treated skin, or even in areas of chronic skin irritation.

SCC is most often "local" but can spread to surrounding tissues or even other parts of the body. SCCs most often are found in red, irritated, sun-damaged skin. They often have a scaly, red, crusted appearance and may have an ulcer in them. The tissue is often fragile and may bleed easily when rubbed.

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant melanoma is the least common of the three main types of skin cancer, but it is the most dangerous. While there are several varieties of malignant melanoma, the only thing you absolutely need to know about them is that any of them can be deadly. Malignant melanoma accounts for most of the deaths related to skin cancer. The most disturbing statistic is that despite public education campaigns about the dangers of sun exposure and skin cancer, the incidence of malignant melanoma in the United States continues to rise. Fair-skinned people, such as blondes and redheads in particular, need to watch their skin closely.

Any mole or pigmented spot on their body that changes in any way should be checked. If it gets bigger, darker, changes shape, has irregular edges, is or becomes asymmetric, has light and dark areas in it, or ever bleeds, it should be checked immediately. The ABCDs of melanoma are:  Asymmetry, Borders that are irregular, Color changes, Diameter that is enlarging.

With early detection and treatment, most can be successfully removed and the patient completely cured. However, if not detected and treated early, these killers can spread to the lungs, the liver, the brain, and elsewhere.



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