When it comes to skin cancer, all things are not equal.
• Some skin cancers are more common than others.
• Some skin cancers are more fatal than others.
• And each skin cancer presents with specific physical characteristics.
“Skin cancer is a broad diagnosis for a number of specific types of cancers,” says Richard Price, M.D. of Price Skin Care in Madison, MS. “Each type presents differently, so to the untrained eye, it can be difficult to know what you’re seeing.”
In part one of this ‘Skin Cancer Primer’, we’ll look at three of the most common types of skin cancer in some general terms as well as how and where they present on the body.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
- The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma affects an estimated two million people each year.
- The most common areas of the body affected are areas that are exposed to the harmful rays of the sun including the scalp, face and ears.
- This cancer presents as a flat lesion on the skin that may be brown, reddish or flesh colored. It can also look like waxy or pearl-colored.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- This form of skin cancer occurs in the squamous cells, which are located o the top layer of the skin.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is diagnosed in men at twice the rate of women and is most commonly seen on the lips, ears, nose, hands or other areas of the body exposed to the sun.
- It presents as a firm, red bump or nodule, or a flat lesion with a crusty or scaly surface.
- The most fatal form of skin cancer is melanoma. If undiagnosed or untreated, it can metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body and be fatal. However, if discovered early and treated, it is almost always curable.
- Melanoma is most often found on the trunk, head and neck of men and on the lower legs of women.
- It may present as a large, brown-colored spot with dark freckles, or in a mole that changes in color or size, or a mole that bleeds.
Early Diagnosis and Treatment Are Key
The one thing that all skin cancers do have in common is that early diagnosis and treatment are key to your health – and possibly even your survival.
“We encourage everyone to perform monthly self-examinations,” said Dr Price. “If you see anything out of the ordinary, schedule an appointment with a medical doctor immediately.”