The most common type of cancer, skin cells are susceptible to the same abnormal, uncontrolled growth that causes other cancers. All types of skin cancers are generally curable, but early detection and treatment is critical. Knowing the type of skin cancer is important to assess the risk and to create the best possible treatment plan. Moreover, people who have had skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing a new skin cancer, which is why regular self-examination and doctor visits are imperative.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). Whether you’re trying to diagnose a skin blemish, learn more about treatment options, or determine a schedule for skin cancer screenings, don’t wait to make an appointment for a consultation with our board-certified dermatologist.
Our Mt Vernon dermatology clinic can alleviate your concerns, provide early detection and treatment, and remove non-cancerous skin blemishes. In the meantime, read through our resource pages for different types and symptoms of skin cancer.
Types of Skin Cancer
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: About 80-85 percent of all skin cancers are basal cell. This type of carcinoma typically affects cells in the deeper layers of the epidermis. They usually appear as small flesh-colored moles. They are slow growing and rarely metastasize, but should still be examined, biopsied, and removed by a doctor. Learn more about basal cell carcinoma symptoms, detection, and treatment.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Another 10 percent of skin cancers are squamous cells. While these carcinomas begin in the upper layers of the epidermis, they have a higher potential to grow deeper into the skin and spread to the rest of the body. Potentially deadly but usually visible and slow-growing, this skin cancer typically responds well to treatment. Learn more about squamous cell carcinoma symptoms, detection, and treatment.
- Melanoma: About 5 percent of skin cancers are the more dangerous melanomas. Like basal cell carcinomas, this cancer begins in the deeper layers of the epidermis—specifically pigment-producing melanocytes. These cancers have a higher potential to metastasize and spread throughout the body. Learn more about melanoma symptoms, detection, and treatment.
- Rare Types of Skin Cancer: There is a handful of other rare types of skin cancer including Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, kaposi’s sarcoma, sebaceous gland carcinoma, and dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans. Altogether, these skin cancers comprise another 1 percent of all skin cancer cases. Though variable, these skin cancers tend to be very dangerous, especially since they can be more difficult to detect and diagnose.
What to Look For
You can find even more tips by looking at the symptoms and appearance for different types of skin cancers, but here is a general list of skin changes that can help you detect skin cancer:
- Large brown spots with darker speckles located anywhere on the body.
- Dark lesions on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, fingertips toes, mouth, nose or genitalia.
- Translucent pearly and dome-shaped growths.
- Existing moles that begin to grow, itch or bleed.
- Brown or black streaks under the nails.
- A sore that repeatedly heals and re-opens.
- Clusters of slow-growing scaly lesions that are pink or red.
The American Academy of Dermatology has developed the following ABCDE guide for assessing whether or not a mole or other lesion may be becoming cancerous.
Asymmetry: Half the mole does not match the other half in size, shape or color.
Border: The edges of moles are irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined.
Color: The mole is not the same color throughout.
Diameter: The mole is usually greater than 6 millimeters when diagnosed, but may also be smaller.
Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that is different from the rest, or changes in size, shape, or color.
If any of these conditions occur, please make an appointment to see one of our dermatologists right away. The doctor may do a biopsy of the mole to determine if it is or isn’t cancerous.
Roughly 90% of nonmelanoma cancers are attributable to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. That’s why skin care prevention involves:
- Staying out of the sun during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
- Covering up the arms and legs with protective clothing.
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Using sunscreens year-round with a SPF of 15 or greater and sunblock that works on both UVA and UVB rays. Look for products that use the term “broad spectrum.”
- Checking your skin monthly and contacting your dermatologist if you notice any changes.
- Getting regular skin examinations. It is advised that adults over 40 get an annual exam with a dermatologist.
Stages of Skin Cancer
No matter the type of skin cancer, there are five stages through which the cancer progresses. Knowing the type and the stage of your cancer will help you contextualize the risk and the need for treatment.
Stage 0—This is when a cancerous tumor first forms in the uppermost layers of skin and is still confined to the original tumor.
Stage 1—This stage occurs when the tumor becomes more defined and reaches the dermis. At this stage, the tumor is still less than 2mm. There may or may not be a visible ulcer.
Stage 2—Once this stage is reached, the tumor has grown larger than 2mm thick and there is visible ulceration. However, there is no evidence that the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Stage 3—The tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes, but there is no evidence that the cancer has metastasized to distant organs.
Stage 4—The tumor has metastasized and reached organs beyond localized lymph nodes. The cancer may appear in vital organs, soft tissues, or other lymph nodes throughout the body.
Even then, the exact location and characteristics of your skin cancer growth may affect the overall treatment and monitoring plan. Your dermatologist will be to explain and respond to questions you may have about your individual skin cancer diagnosis.
Make an Appointment for Skin Cancer Screening
Anyone with troublesome moles, lesions, or ulcers that may be cancerous should get checked out by a dermatologist. Those with risk factors including a family history of skin cancer, being over 40, and regular exposure to the sun should also get regular skin checks. Again, early detection and treatment is the most important thing you can do to make sure your skin cancer treatment is effective.
Awesome doc. In for new patient appointment and out with procedure done in under 30 minutes. Very friendly staff.
Very professional, explained everything very well. Wonderful place with the nicest nurses, Dr's and everyone else in the office. Definitely recommend them.
My skin is in great shape thanks to the amazing doctors and staff at the "Skin Center"