Skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer in humans. While skin cancer can usually be prevented by protecting your skin from the sun, it can also happen due to other factors. There are three common types of skin cancer: Squamous cell, Basal cell, and Melanoma. In addition to skin cancer, there are skin lesions that can be considered pre-cancerous and have the potential to turn into cancer.
Types of Skin Cancers & Precancers
Actinic Keratosis is a precancerous lesion that typically resembles a dry scaly patch or spot. These are considered the earliest stage of skin cancer or a precancer. Actinic keratosis can progress into squamous cell carcinoma. Actinic keratosis is typically seen in adults over the age of 40 because they tend to develop from many years of sun exposure. Proper use of sunscreen can help prevent actinic keratosis.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) are the most common type of skin cancer. They frequently look like a flesh-colored pearly bump. They can also look like a pinkish patch of skin. BCC’s develop in skin that has been frequently exposed to the sun like the head, neck, and arms. Although many can form on the trunk and lower limbs as well. Basal Cell Carcinoma usually does not grow quickly and rarely spread to other parts of the body but left untreated these cancers can invade the surrounding tissue and grow into nerves and bone causing damage and disfigurement.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. They look like a firm bump, scaly patch, or an ulcer that heals then re-opens. They are also usually reddish in color. Like BCC people with light skin types are most likely to get squamous cell carcinoma and they tend to form in areas that have had a lot of sun exposure such as the ears, face neck, arms, and trunk.
Melanoma skin cancer often develops or appears suddenly in a new dark spot on the skin. There are many warning signs. The absolute first warning sign is a change in appearance. Any change in an existing mole or new mole is a sign and you should have your mole looked at.
Here are the characteristics to look for:
- Asymmetry; one half, unlike the other half.
- Borders; irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
- Color; varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.
- Diameter; while greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- Evolving; a mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
If you are concerned that you may have a cancerous or precancerous growth, call Seattle Skin & Laser today to schedule an evaluation with one of our providers. Our dermatologists will be able to diagnose and make recommendations for treatment. Seattle Skin and Laser also treats patients from Mercer Island and the Issaquah area.