Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell skin cancer is a slow-growing type of skin cancer that results from abnormal growth in the top layer of epidermal cells. It accounts for 75% of skin cancers, making it the most common form. Basal cell skin cancer can present as a painless flat or raised skin bump or growth that is pearly and waxy. It can be white, light pink, flesh colored or brown.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell skin cancer involves changes to skin cells in the middle layer of the epidermis and usually presents as a growing bump with a rough, scaly surface and flat reddish patches. This type of cancer spreads faster than basal cell carcinoma, but is still relatively slow growing. About 95% of squamous cell tumors can be cured if removed promptly.
Actinic keratosis is a small, rough, raised area found on skin that has been exposed to the sun over a long period of time. It is considered a precancerous lesion and about 5% develop into squamous cell skin cancer.
Melanoma is the least common and most dangerous form of skin cancer. It involves the melanocyte cells responsible for producing the skin pigment melanin. Melanomas can appear as a new mole, growth to an existing mole, or other abnormal skin growth. They can be flat or raised, are usually larger than 6 mm in diameter, and are irregular in shape and color, exhibiting different shades of black, brown, tan, blue and red. Melanomas spread rapidly and are the leading cause of death from skin disease.
People with fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blonde or red hair are at increased risk for skin cancer. Other risk factors include genetics, older age (skin cancer is most common in people older than 40 years), and frequent sun exposure.
Signs & symptoms
Skin cancers often vary in appearances, but several key characteristics may help in diagnosis: asymmetry, irregular border, variation in color, diameter of 5 mm or larger (about the size of pencil eraser), or a growth that bleeds or will not heal.
In addition to regular skin exams, reducing exposure to sunlight is the best way to reduce the risk for skin cancer. Encourage patients to apply sunscreen in both the winter and summer with an SPF of at least 15, that protects against both UVA and UVB light 30 minutes before going outdoors.