Skin Cancer 101

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Most of these are not malignant, or in other words, aggressive and invasive. The prognosis for nonmalignant skin cancer is excellent when caught early.  This fact should encourage us to educate ourselves about skin cancer in order to recognize and prevent this prevalent problem. There are three main types of skin cancer:

  • Basal Cell Carcinoma– Basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of skin cancer but is also the least invasive type. It can destroy localized surrounding tissue, but does not spread to other parts of the body. It is typically located in areas of the body that receive sun exposure, but can occur in unexposed areas as well. It generally presents as a shiny, raised, flesh-colored area, resembling a translucent mole. A biopsy may be necessary to differentiate between the two. 
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma– Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It can be slow or rapid spreading to surrounding tissues and other parts of the body. It can occur on sun exposed or unexposed areas of the skin. In most cases, squamous cell carcinoma appears as a red, scaly patch of skin that may bleed when bumped.
  • Melanoma– Melanoma is the most dangerous kind of skin cancer because it leads to rapidly multiplying mutated skin cells that form malignant tumors. It may be found on any part of the body. To look for signs of melanoma, the ABCDE system is used.

Asymmetry of the area. When suspicious areas are divided in half, the halves do not match.

Borders are irregular. The edges of the area in question are uneven.

Color is not uniform. Different shades can be seen in different areas of the same mole.

Diameter is typically greater than the width of a pencil eraser. Also, the size may change.

Evolves in size, shape, color, or texture. These areas generally change appearances in some way.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of skin cancer, as well as check ups with a dermatologist, will put you in a good position to intercept any problems early. While the prevalence of skin cancer can be disturbing, the knowledge you can equip yourself with can be empowering. When it comes to skin cancer, ignorance is not bliss.