There are three main types of skin cancer that affect more than one million individuals each year in the US. Cancer appears and settles in when abnormal cells start multiplying and take over. They produce a tumor which can be malignant or benign. Only the first kind is cancerous, as it begins invading other tissues. When metastasis occurs, the tumor reaches other organs through the bloodstream. Skin cancer holds the title of the most common form of cancer, with one out of five Americans suffering from it.
Basal cell carcinoma
Around three quarters of non-melanoma skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Found in the epidermis’ deepest layers, surrounding hair follicles, basal cells can develop cancer on various parts of the face as well as on the back and calves. Mostly found in elders, BCC usually starts out as a lump that grows and is itchy or bleeds. This type of cancer can spread to bones or cartilage. If it’s not treated, BCC increases in size and depth. Basal cell carcinoma cancers can be nodular, morphemic or pigmented. The cases when they enable a secondary cancer to develop are rare, but it’s possible to have several BCCs at the same time.
Melanomas typically appear on the legs in women and on the back in men. Most of the times they are created from a mole which changes its characteristics, be it in size or color. UV light exposure and decreased skin pigment are two of the main causes of malignant melanomas. Treatment includes surgical removal which proves successful in most cases. If the malignant melanoma has spread, chemotherapy or radiation might be necessary.
Squamous cell carcinoma
SCC claims 20% of every 100 cancer patients. This cancer affects keratinocytes, found within the epidermis. In most cases, Squamous cell cancers will develop in areas that have been continuously exposed to sunlight: the head, neck and arms. More infrequent cases revealed that SCC can also settle in areas that were burnt or ulcerated, as well as in scars. This kind of cancer has a quicker pace than Basal cell carcinoma and can look bumpy or turn into an ulcer. Squamous cell carcinoma rarely causes other cancers and doesn’t always spread to other tissues. When it does spread, it usually affects deeper skin layers.
Non melanoma skin cancer
While they are rare, non-melanoma cancers are very aggressive and highly likely to spread to other tissues or organs of the body. This makes them one of the most dangerous kinds of skin cancer.
- Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare condition that affects the top layer skin cells. The most common causes are exposure to UV light treatment and treatments which decrease your immune system’s efficiency. It begins as a lump and can grow as large as 5 cm. Merkel cell cancer spreads fast and can affect lymph nodes or the liver.
- Kaposi’s sarcoma is very rare and develops in a unique way. KS affects cells in lymph vessels and it can appear in various parts of the body at once. Caused by the herpes virus 8, KS manifests itself through lesions and tumors that can be brown, blue and even deep purple.
For more information about skin health, check out All You Need to Know about Skin Health.