What Are The 4 Types of Skin Cancer?

Did you know that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month? In this blog, we’ll take a look at how to spot skin cancer, the most harmful type of skin cancer, and talk about some skin cancer treatment options.

The Four Types of Skin Cancer

There are four main types of skin cancer. While some may be easier to treat or easier to spot than others, each should be taken seriously.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

What To Look For: Pearly or pink, smooth bump

Also referred to as BCC, basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. As the name implies, BCC develops in the basal layer of the epidermis一 the deepest layer of the epidermis itself. As with most skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma usually is found in areas where there has been more exposure to the sun’s damaging UV rays. You will probably find BCC on the upper back, face, and neck for this reason. Luckily, this type of cancer tends to grow larger at very slow rates and it’s uncommon to find that they have spread to other parts of the body. As with any cancer, detecting BCC early is critical to the effectiveness of your treatment.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

What To Look For: Red nodules, open sores, or red patches

Also referred to as SCC, squamous cell carcinomas are the next most common carcinoma. Unlike BCC, squamous cell carcinoma forms in the upper layers of the epidermis. As with BCC, SCC tends to develop in areas heavily exposed to the sun, but it isn’t unheard of to find squamous cell carcinoma in other areas like the genital region. SCC doesn’t grow quickly or spread very readily; however, squamous cell carcinoma is more likely than BCC to spread into deeper layers of the skin.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

What To Look For: Flesh-colored, smooth, painless lump

Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare form of carcinoma, but it deserves a mention. This carcinoma is named after the cells it affects: the Merkel cells. These cells are responsible for our sense of touch, and they are all connected to nerves. This fact means that metastasis into nervous system tissue is highly likely. Individuals over the age of 50 and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer from Merkel cell carcinoma.

Melanoma

What To Look For: Dark-colored, irregular-shaped, itchy, low-profile lump

The most harmful type of skin cancer is melanoma. This is because melanoma is more aggressive and tends to spread more rapidly than other types of skin cancer. When melanoma spreads to tissues far away in the body, it is considered metastatic melanoma. While melanoma starts in melanocytes (pigment-producing cells in the skin), it can spread to surrounding tissues rapidly. Like other skin cancers, your risk of developing melanoma is increased if you spend many hours out in the sun without protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

How To Spot Skin Cancer

Frequent Personal Checks

Since you know your body best, it’s in your best interest to check your skin’s surface on a monthly basis. Pay special attention to the areas of your body that see the most sunlight. If you are having a hard time seeing certain areas, like the middle of your back or the back of your neck, ask a loved one to help you. Keep an eye out for any changes to your skin that appear abnormal.

See A Dermatologist

For individuals who are at a high risk of developing skin cancer, it may be best to see a dermatologist on a regular basis. These doctors are trained in spotting all types of skin cancer and can often catch pre-cancerous changes before their patients can.

How To Prevent Skin Cancer

Keeping in mind that mutations can still occur without exposure to UV radiation, one of the best ways you can protect your skin is by wearing sunscreen. We all hear about this simple prevention technique so often that we tend to take it for granted. In fact, wearing sunscreen every day is your best chance at preventing skin cancer later in life.

Skin Cancer Treatment

When it comes to skin cancer treatment, your options depend on how progressed your cancer is. Some tumors can be removed surgically (like with Mohs Surgery) with little chance of recurrence; however, other, more established cancers may have grown into surrounding tissue or metastasized into the rest of the body. For cancers as advanced as this, whole-body treatments, such as chemotherapy, may be required.

Do you think you have skin cancer? Get in touch with your doctor today, and make sure that you continue to apply sunscreen regularly so that you can avoid future tumors.