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Major Types of Skin Cancer

There are three major types of skin cancer;

  • basal cell carcinoma,
  • squamous cell carcinoma,
  • malignant melanoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma: Basal cell carcinoma generally occurs in sun-exposed parts of people’s body, like neck or face.

Basal cell carcinoma sign and symptoms can be;

  • A off-white or waxy bump
  • A flat, pinky-colored or brown scar-like lesion

Squamous cell carcinoma: Usually, squamous cell carcinoma occurs on sun-exposed parts of body, like hand, ears and face. People who have darker skin are more probable to develop squamous cell carcinoma on parts that aren't regularly exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma sign and symptoms may be:

  • A reddish nodule
  • A flat lesion with a squamous, crusty surface 

Malignant Melanoma: Malignant melanoma can develop anywhere on people body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous. Malignant melanoma usually appears on the face or the body of men. In women usually develops on the lower legs. Malignant melanoma can occur on skin that hasn't been exposed to the sun.

People with any skin tone can have melanoma cancer. Malignant melanoma tends to occur under the fingernails or toenails or on the palms or soles, in people with darker skin tones.

Malignant Melanoma signs and symptoms include:

  • A large brownish spot with darker speckles
  • A mole that changes in size, color or feel or that bleeds
  • A small lesion with an abnormal border and portions that appear white, red, blue or blue-black
  • Dark lesions on the palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, vagina or anus.  

Skin Cancer Risk Factors

Skin Cancer Treatment

Surgical removal is the mainstay of therapy for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Small lesions can be removed through a variety of procedures, including simple removal (cutting it away), electrodesiccation and curettage (burning the tissue with an electric needle), and cryosurgery (freezing the area with liquid nitrogen).

Larger tumors, lesions in high-risk areas, recurrent tumors, and lesions in cosmetically sensitive locations are removed by micrographic surgery. The surgeon removes tissue, layer by layer, until cancer-free tissue is reached. 

Malignant melanoma is treated more aggressively than just surgical removal. To ensure the complete removal of this risky malignancy, 1-2 cm of normal-appearing skin surrounding the tumor is also removed by wide removal with or without skin grafting to cover the defect left by the process. 

How can I know if I have skin cancer?

Checking the skin for suspicious cases can help notice skin cancer at its earliest stages. Early detection of skin cancer gives patients the highest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.

If you have a mole or other skin lesion that is causing you concern, show it to your doctor. He or she will check your skin and may remove the mole or bump for the detailed test.

Whatever is removed will be sent to a laboratory to be viewed under a microscope. The results will be back within two weeks. 

How Can You Reduce Skin Cancer Risk?

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day
  • Use sun protection lotions, creams and sprays
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Wear sunglasses with high quality UV filter
  • Avoid solarium tanning and spray tanning
  • Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications
  • Check your skin regularly and if there is something bothers you go to your doctor. 

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

Skin cancer usually begins as a simple, painless spot, sore or rash on the skin. If that sore or rash doesn’t heal, or if the spot changes color or becomes irregular in shape, it may be skin cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma- shiny nodule or pimple, a sore that won't heal, a scar-like area or rough red patches. 

Squamous cell carcinoma- crusted red nodules (typically on sun-exposed skin but can also occur inside the mouth or the genitalia). 

Melanoma- a growing mole that changes shape, color or size; a mole that bleeds or is painful; a new \\mole\\ that grows rapidly; a dark streak or black discoloration of the fingernail. 

What are the skin cancer risk factors? 

  • A personal history of skin cancer
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Precancerous skin lesions
  • A history of sunburns
  • Sunny or high-altitude climates
  • Light skin tones
  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Moles
  • Exposure to radiation
  • A weakened immune system
  • Exposure to certain substances 


Can skin cancer be prevented?

In many cases, skin cancer can be prevented. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid too much sun exposure. Doctors believe that ultraviolet rays (UV rays) from the sun damage the skin and over time lead to skin cancer. Here are ways to protect yourself:

  • Avoid the sun during the middle of the day
  • Use sun protection lotions, creams and sprays
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Wear sunglasses with high quality UV filter
  • Avoid solarium tanning and spray tanning
  • Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications
  • Check your skin regularly and if there is something bothers you go to your doctor

How is skin cancer treated?

Treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer (whether it has spread deeper into the skin or to other places in the body).
  • The type of cancer. 
  • The size of the tumor and what part of the body it affects.
  • The patient’s general health.

Skin cancer treatment may include;

  • surgery
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy 

Is skin cancer contagious?

Skin cancer is not contagious just like other types of cancer

If a family member has skin cancer, does that mean I also have skin cancer?

Genetic factors increase the risk of skin cancer but if a family member's has skin cancer it does not mean that all members of the family have skin cancer

Does skin cancer cause itching?

One of the most important symptoms of skin cancer is the pain, bleeding or itching in or around the spot. 

What are the symptoms of skin cancer in the leg?

The skin covers all the body organs in the human body so it is possible to see skin cancer in any area of the body, the symptoms of skin cancer in the leg are the same symptoms in other areas. 

Is skin cancer deadly?

When detected early and by using advanced technology, skin cancer can be successfully treated, but in the case of late detection and treatment of melanoma skin cancer can lead to death.

Most wondered things about skin cancer

Skin cancer has 3 different types:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Melanoma 

Early diagnosis is very important for the treatment of skin cancer. Also the type of cancer plays a major role while taking the decision to treat skin cancer. There are several possibilities in the treatment of skin cancer such as surgical intervention, drug treatment, radiation and chemotherapy. In some cases, some of these possibilities may be applied together. 

What is the protective effect of skin on the body?

Skin is the largest organ covering the body. It is a barrier that protects the body from heat, cold and infection that comes from outside. 

How are skin cancers diagnosed?

There are several methods to diagnose skin cancer: firstly it can be determined by periodic examination of the skin by plastic surgeons or dermatologists, but the most important is the individual's own examination. Skin wounds that last for a long time and also moles that make changes in its shape and size are suspected as skin cancer. 

What is basal cell carcinoma skin cancer?

This type of skin cancer appears on the areas that exposed to sun, usually does not spread to different areas in the body, but grows in the areas that appears on and cause serious damage to those areas.  

What is squamous cell carcinoma skin cancer?

This type of cancer appears as patches on the skin and it’s characterized by spreading to other organs of the body. 

What is melanoma skin cancer?

It is an aggressive and rapid spread of skin cancer caused by pigment cells in the skin. 

What is the incidence of skin cancers?

Skin cancer is seen worldwide and its incidence is higher in sun-exposed areas and in light-skinned people. 

Does every mole on the body refer to skin cancer?

All of the moles in the body do not refer to skin cancer, there are also benign moles, but the important thing here is whether the mole undergoes changes in shape and color or not. 

Does skin cancers recur?

If the cancer is completely eradicated from the infected area, there is no risk of skin cancer to recur again in the same area. However, if a patient has skin cancer in a particular area, the proportion of recurrence is 30%. 

How often should I go for a check?

People with suspected skin cancer should make check-up every 6 months at least. But, for people who have previous skin cancer cases in their family they should have a skin examination every 3 months. 

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© Prof. Dr. Bekir Atik, MD. All Rights Reserved.

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