Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells and almost always appears on skin that receives excessive sun exposure. The three most common forms of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Not all skin cancer is fatal and early detection has proven to be a key factor in its treatment.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of the three main types of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma – Usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the neck and face. Appears as a waxy, whitish bump or a flat lesion that may be brown or flesh-toned.
Squamous cell carcinoma – Also occurs most often on sun-exposed areas such as the face, ears and hands. Appears as a solid, red bump or a flat lesion that has a scaly or crusty feel.
Melanoma – Can appear anywhere on the body, in normal skin or in a mole that then becomes cancerous. Melanomas usually appear as larger brown spots with even darker spots inside. Moles that change color may be melanomas. Also presents as small red, white, blue or blue-black lesions, with irregular borders. Dark lesions on other parts of the body not exposed to the sun may also be melanomas.
Who gets it?
Skin cancer can occur in anyone, anywhere, but is more likely to occur in people whose work or lifestyle exposes them to direct sunlight on a regular basis. Though skin cancer occurs less often in people with darker complexions than in those with fair complexions, dark-skinned people are at higher risk for cancer in areas of the body not normally exposed to the sun.
Treatment options for skin cancer depend on its size, type, and location. Small skin cancers appearing on the surface of the skin may need only minor surgery. Other, deeper cancers may require more extensive treatment options, which include:
- Cryotherapy (freezing)
- Excisional surgery
- Mohs micrographic surgery
- Curettage and electrodesiccation combined with cryotherapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- Biological therapy