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With the number of new skin cancer cases growing more and more every year, now has never been a better time to learn more about skin cancer and how it can impact your health.
This common condition isn’t something to take lightly, and with 1 in 5 Americans developing skin cancer by the time they reach the age of 70, it’s essential to understand the different types of skin cancer and take the right steps to reduce your risk.
The sections below cover what you should know about the three most common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma skin cancer.
3 Common Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma
With over 4 million new cases diagnosed every year in the United States alone, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. Fortunately, this type is often easy to diagnose and has a high cure rate with early detection.
Basal cell carcinoma occurs when basal cells, which are found in the epidermis layer of the skin, develop a mutation in their DNA and begin to replicate out of control, forming a tumor or skin lesion.
What causes basal cell carcinoma?
Like many other types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is primarily thought to be caused by excessive, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, such as from the sun or indoor tanning beds.
What does basal cell carcinoma look like?
Basal cell carcinoma most often shows up on the neck, face, shoulders, back, and ears, but this skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body. The most common warning signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma include:
- An open sore that won’t heal and that crusts or bleeds. It may heal and then return.
- Irritated patch of skin that may crust, itch, and hurt.
- A shiny bump or node on the skin.
- Small raised growth with an indentation in the center. (May look like a persistent pimple.)
- Patch of skin that may look like eczema but refuses to go away.
- Scar-like skin that isn’t from a known injury. The skin is often pulled taut with irregular edges.
How is basal cell carcinoma treated?
There are a few different ways we treat basal cell carcinoma at Brentwood Dermatology. This includes topical creams, cryosurgery, curettage and electrodesiccation, surgical excision, and Mohs surgery.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
After basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer, with around one million new cases diagnosed each year in the USA. Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by damage to the DNA in squamous cells, which are found in the topmost layer of skin, otherwise known as the epidermis.
What causes squamous cell carcinoma?
Similar to BCC, this DNA damage is primarily caused by cumulative, unprotected exposure to UV rays. In fact, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation, around 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with UV radiation from the sun. (This is why it’s incredibly important to protect your skin when in the sun this summer!)
What does squamous cell carcinoma look like?
Squamous cell carcinoma looks very similar to basal cell carcinoma. In addition to the warning signs listed above under BCC, squamous cell carcinoma can also look like:
- Red, scaly patches or open sores that won’t heal, or that heal but come back repeatedly.
- Rough, thick, wart-like skin that may crust over and bleed.
- Raised growths with a dip in the center. (May itch or bleed.)
How is squamous cell carcinoma treated?
Much like basal cell carcinoma, our board-certified dermatologists at Brentwood Dermatology treat squamous cell carcinoma with topical creams, curettage and electrodesiccation, cryosurgery, surgical excision, and Mohs surgery.
Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma skin cancer is less common compared to basal cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. However, it is more dangerous due to its increased risk of spreading beyond the epidermis to other parts of the body.
This type of skin cancer develops in the melanocytes, which are melanin-producing cells found in the epidermis layer of the skin. And while it’s more dangerous than other skin cancer types, melanoma skin cancer does have a high cure rate when detected and treated early.
What causes melanoma?
Melanoma is typically caused by DNA damage, which results in an uncontrolled overgrowth of cells. This overgrowth crowds out normal cells, making it hard for the body to work and operate normally. Over time, a skin lesion or tumor may form.
What does melanoma skin cancer look like?
Melanomas can show up on the skin differently and present different symptoms. However, some of the most common ways melanoma skin cancer can show up includes:
- Dark brown to black colored spots.
- Occasionally a pink bump or spot.
- Patch of skin that does not heal or that goes away but comes back again.
- Redness or swelling in the skin around a mole or spot.
- Changes in sensation in or around a mole or spot, including itching, tenderness, or pain.
- Changes in the surface of a mole or spot, such as scaling, oozing, or bleeding.
- A mole that changes overtime (keep an eye on mole borders, colors, diameter, and shape).
How is melanoma skin cancer treated?
Our board-certified dermatologists at Brentwood Dermatology often treat melanoma skin cancer with either surgical excision, Mohs surgery, and, in some rare cases, oral immunotherapies, which are often reserved for treating advanced melanoma that has spread.
Healthy Skin Starts with the Experts at Brentwood Dermatology
When it comes to skin cancer, early detection and learning as much as you can about it is key to ensuring your skin stays happy and healthy. Our dermatologists are experts at detecting, diagnosing and treating several different types of skin cancers, as well as ensuring our patients feel safe and comfortable at our Tennessee offices.
If you’re interested in learning more about skin cancer or would like to schedule a thorough skin check-up, request an appointment online or give us a call at (615) 455-0046.