Skin Cancer Resource Guide

Written by Leanna Serras

Skin cancer involves the abnormal development of cancer cells on the skin. In most cases, skin cancer develops on areas of skin frequently exposed to sunlight. However, skin cancer can occur anywhere on the skin. Three types of skin cancer exist: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Of these three types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common, and melanoma is the most serious type of cancer. Performing diligent skin care, which includes minimizing sun exposure and wearing sunscreen, can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas may also be called nonmelanoma skin cancers. More than 90 percent of skin cancer cases are basal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer advances slowly and rarely spreads to other areas of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma tends to remain localized, but it spreads more readily than basal cell carcinoma. The main warning sign for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas is a change in the skin's appearance. A scaly patch that's red or pink in color could be a potential issue. A smooth bump or lump that doesn't go away might also be the onset of skin cancer. A physician will take a biopsy of the affected area to diagnose nonmelanoma skin cancer. If test results reveal cancer, the physician will ascertain whether the cancer is contained to the localized area or whether it has spread to other areas. Typical treatment of nonmelanoma skin cancer that has not spread involves surgically removing the cancerous cells from the skin.

Melanoma skin cancer is less common but more serious. Most moles on the skin are harmless, but sometimes moles can develop cancerous cells that develop into melanoma. With early detection, even melanoma is treatable with excellent survival rates. The danger with melanoma is that this type of cancer will spread to other organs if it is not treated early. Self-exams performed monthly can be effective for catching melanoma in an early stage. A professional skin exam performed by a physician can also help find melanoma before it spreads. Have any moles with irregular edges, an asymmetrical shape, varying color throughout the mole, and a size over a quarter-inch in diameter evaluated by a physician promptly. A mole that seems to be changing over time could also be problematic. Moles that itch or hurt should also be evaluated. Treatment of melanoma may involve surgery to remove the cancerous cells from the skin and other organs. Radiation and chemotherapy may also be a part of the treatment plan.

General Skin Cancer

Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Melanoma Skin Cancer