Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a serious disease that can affect anyone. It is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. If caught early, skin cancer can often be treated with success. But in some cases, it is life-threatening. To play it safe, talk with your healthcare provider about doing monthly skin checkups. If you see any changes in your skin, contact your doctor right away. 

Basal cell cancer is the most common skin cancer. Areas of cancer (lesions) often appear on the face, ears, neck, trunk, or arms. Varying in color, these lesions may be waxy, pearly, scaly, or scarlike. Tiny blood vessels may be seen through the lesion’s surface. These lesions sometime bleed easily and might not heal well.

Melanoma is less common, but much more dangerous type of skin cancer. This is because it is more likely to grow and spread than basal or squamous cell cancers.. It is often not easy to tell where a melanoma lesion’s borders are. It is often brown or black, but it may be mixed in color. The shape and size of melanoma lesions tend to differ from one side to the other.

Squamous cell cancer is also a common type of skin cancer. Lesions often form on the face, ears, neck, hands, or arms. The lesions are firm, red bumps or flat, scaly, crusty growths.

Bowen’s disease is an early stage of squamous cell cancer. The lesions are usually  red, crusty, scaly growths with well-defined borders.

There are other types of skin cancer as well. These include Merkel cell cancer and skin (cutaneous) lymphomas, but these cancers are rare.

A precancerous skin change

Actinic keratosis is not skin cancer. It is a common, precancerous skin change that can turn into a squamous cell skin cancer if left untreated over a long period of time. Actinic keratosis lesions tend to appear on sun-exposed parts of the body. They can be pink, reddish-brown, or skin-colored. These lesions are most often raised, scaly, and rough, like sandpaper. In some cases, actinic keratosis lesions are painful. Getting early treatment for actinic keratoses almost always cures the lesions.

Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Michael Stephen, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Last Review Date: 1/1/2017
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