As we age, the possibility of skin cancer increases.
All those days we spent in the sun when we were young catch up to us. Our constant exposure to UV rays leads to irregular or discolored skin spots that lead to visits to our dermatologist. Hopefully, we get the good news that the spots aren’t dangerous.
But in the event that you get a cancer diagnosis, it’s important to educate yourself on the various types of skin cancers. If this is your first cancer diagnosis, you’re likely to be in a little shock as the doctor tells you about what form of the cancer you have and what the implications are.
In this post, we’re going to cover the three main types of skin cancers and give you helpful information about each one.
Before we get to these different types of skin cancers, we want to give you a quick overview of how to check for irregular moles.
We like the ABCDE method outlined by Mayo Clinic:
- A – The mole has an Asymmetrical shape.
- B – You see an irregular Border on a mole.
- C – The Color of a mole Changes.
- D – The Diameter of a new growth in your mole is greater than 1/4”
- E – Your mole evolves over time…it gets bigger, changes color or becomes itchy.
If you notice any of these changes in any of your moles, talk with your doctor. Now, let’s move on to the three most common categories of skin cancer.
Under normal conditions, your melanocytes (cells that produce melanin) provide color for your skin. In some situations, the DNA in these cells gets damaged and instead of producing color in a normal way, they go haywire and reproduce at a rapid rate. Your skin cells’ abnormal growth as a result of damaged DNA is what results in melanoma.
Most of us think that UV rays are the main cause of melanoma, and that’s true. However, Mayo Clinic points out that genetics and non-sun-related environmental factors can also cause this type of skin cancer.
You can limit the risk of melanoma by wearing sunscreen and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun. Though we’ve known that increased exposure to the sun can increase the chances of melanoma, doctors are still seeing increased rates of melanoma.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This form of skin cancer is the second-most prevalent type next to melanoma. Unlike melanoma, which results from an alteration to the DNA that governs melanin production, squamous cell carcinoma is found in the cells which make up the middle and outer layer of the skin, Mayo Clinic says.
Similar to melanoma, a miscue in cell DNA leads to rapid production of cells that result in cancerous sores or bumps on the skin. These cancerous cells typically show up as red bumps, scaly patches or sores that emerge from scar tissue, Mayo Clinic and WebMD say.
Unlike melanoma, which can spread quickly, squamous cell carcinoma grows slowly, but can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This third type of skin cancer affects the basal cells of your skin, which lie beneath squamous cells and produce new skin cells as old skin cells die off and are pushed to the surface of your skin. Of the three cancers we’ve mentioned here, basal cell carcinoma is the least dangerous because, Moffitt Cancer Center says, it rarely spreads beyond the area where it appears.
There are several different warning signs, many of which you can read about online. For our purposes, we’ll list the major ones:
- A bump that’s pearly white, pink or skin colored that appears on the face, ears or neck.
- A dark lesion.
- A flat patch of skin that’s reddish and scaly.
Basal cell carcinoma can, in some cases, take a long time to develop, which is why it’s more common among people in their 50’s.
As with melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, you should see your doctor if you suspect a part of your skin is showing symptoms similar to what we’ve mentioned here and what’s listed on sites like Mayo Clinic and WebMD.
Extra Resources to Help You Learn More
We aren’t doctors or healthcare specialists, so you should always consult your doctor if you think something is amiss with your skin.
If you want to continue your exploration of skin cancer, there are plenty of reputable sites out there that will equip you with excellent information.
Some of our favorites are:
We always recommend using sunscreen when you head out into the sun for prolonged periods of time. If you want further protection for your skin, take a look at our wide variety of skin guards.
This Skin Care Blog is proudly sponsored by SKIN GUARDS.