What Are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, the skin’s top layer. The epidermis contains three main types of cells: squamous cells that lie just below the outer surface, basal cells beneath the squamous cells, and melanocytes in the lower part of the epidermis. The common forms of skin cancer get their names from the cell types. Here are their descriptions, including their appearance.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Eighty percent of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. These cancers usually develop in sun-exposed areas, especially the head and neck. They tend to grow slowly and rarely spread to other parts of the body. Diagnosing and removing basal cell skin cancer is not usually difficult. But if left untreated, basal cell carcinomas can grow into nearby areas and invade bone or other tissues beneath the skin, making removal potentially disfiguring.
Basal cell carcinomas look like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or a pinkish patch of skin.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for roughly one-fifth of all skin cancers. Squamous cell cancers appear on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, ears, neck, lips, and backs of the hands. They are more likely to spread to other parts of the body than basal cell cancers, but this is still rare.
Squamous cell carcinomas will look like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then reopens.
This deadliest form of skin cancer is also, fortunately, the rarest. But, unlike basal and squamous cell cancers, melanomas are far more likely to grow and spread if left untreated. When melanomas grow downward, they can deposit cancerous cells into the bloodstream, which can then spread cancer anywhere in the body.
A melanoma will suddenly appear as a new dark spot on the skin. They will also show a change in the size, shape, color, or elevation of an existing mole. This is more typical in people with over 50 miles.