Skin cancer is the most common type of human cancer, with an estimated 1 million new cases diagnosed yearly. There are three types:
- Basal cell carcinoma- Over 90% of all skin cancer cases in the US BCC almost never metastasizes.
- Squamos cell carcinoma- About ¼ as common as BCC, more common in men than women. SCC can form in any squamos cells (skin, lining of hollow organs, passages of respiratory and digestive systems), and may metastasize.
These two are commonly called "non-melanoma". They are less dangerous, but should still be treated as soon as detected.
- Melanoma- This is the most deadly form of skin neoplasia (cancer). It does metastasize, sometimes quickly. It develops in melanocytes (pigment cells). Melanoma kills about 50,000 people per year in the United States.
Early detection is crucial. This type of cancer generally has an advantage over some other cancers, in that the early signs are usually visible on your skin. Here is a simple guide for how to spot skin cancer :
- Asymmetry & Border irregularity- benign moles and blemishes are symmetrical (same across the surface) and have regular, smooth borders. Whereas, skin neoplasia will have a different appearance in half of the blemish. It will also have notched or uneven edges.
- Color- A benign mole or blemish may range in color from pink to dark brown, but it is a solid color. Cancerous blemishes will have several colors and irregular patterns, or they will appear a different color than any other moles on your body.
- Diameter- Benign moles are frequently less than ¼ inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser. If the blemish is larger than that, it is very likely some form of skin cancer.
You need to regularly examine your skin all over your body, but especially areas that may be exposed to sun. Most non-melanoma cancers are the result of intermittent sun exposure, rather than consistent. Also, tanning booth use commonly results in BCC, and sometimes melanoma.
Although BCC and SCC are generally non-fatal, if they metastasize, they become unmanageable and can damage other body parts to the point of failure. Do not underestimate the dangers of this type of cancer .
- Skin tears and ruptures due to untreated skin cancers can become dangerously infected.
- When cancer metastasizes, it spreads to other systems of the body. Melanoma can quickly spread to the lymph nodes.
- SCC can cause rupture of linings of internal organs.
- The immune system is weakened.
- Tumors may block circulation, causing necrosis.
Approximately ½ of all Americans who reach age 65 develop some form of skin cancer at least once. Regular self-examination and reporting any irregularities to your doctor immediately can mean the difference between early detection with simple treatment, and possible metastasized tumors that require more involved treatment. You are the first step. Know how to spot skin cancer. Detection is the first step in curing. Take the risks seriously, and take steps to protect yourself from the dangers of skin cancer.