There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Studies indicate that nearly 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer daily in the United States. Skin cancer can affect areas that are usually exposed to the sun as well as areas that aren't.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs and Symptoms
Basal cell carcinoma commonly occurs on areas of your body that get a lot of sun exposure, like your face and neck. Early signs can appear a number of ways. One form is a pearly or waxy bump that has blue, brown, or black areas.
Basal cell carcinoma can also appear as a flat lesion that is flesh-colored, brown, or yellow. This type of cancer sometimes gets overlooked as a scar, so it's important to keep track of what's going on with your skin.
Itchy skin can also be a warning sign to pay attention to. Itchiness isn't always present, but skin will generally become redder and raised.
Basal cell carcinoma can also present as a pink growth that is raised around the edges but flat in the center. With this type, abnormal blood vessels may extend out from the growth.
One of the most telling and alarming signs of basal cell carcinoma is an open sore that doesn't go away. It will ooze and crust but not heal. On the chance it does clear up, it will eventually return.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs and Symptoms
Squamous cell carcinoma can occur on sun-exposed areas of the body. However, for people of color, it is more likely to occur in areas that aren't typically exposed to the sun, such as the soles of the feet or palms of the hands. It can present in several ways. In one, it appears as a rough or scaly patch that can bleed or crust over.
Squamous cell carcinoma can also appear as a lump or growth that is flatter in the center and raised around the edges.
Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can also present as an open sore that oozes or crusts over. It's important to notify your doctor, even if it goes away, as it will likely return over time.
Squamous cell carcinoma also can present as a wart-like growth. It may have more discoloration than a standard wart, but it can also be flesh-colored. Note that these growths can also appear in your mouth.
Melanoma Signs and Symptoms
Melanoma can appear anywhere on a person's body. In women, it's more common in the lower legs. On men, it's more common on the face and torso. There are a few things to look out for with melanoma. It can appear as a large brown spot with darker spots within.
Melanoma often presents in changes in an existing mole. If a mole changes size, color, or feel (for example, was flat and becomes raised) or begins to bleed, consult your doctor.
Melanoma can also present as a lesion that is bordered in an irregular pattern. The border can be red, pink, blue, black, or white.
A painful lesion that is itchy or feels like it burns can also be indicative of melanoma. Some people who experience this type of lesion report that it hurts only when it is scratched. While that may seem like a small detail, it's still important to bring up to your doctor.
Dark lesions can also be a sign of melanoma. These dark lesions can occur on fingers, palms, toes, or soles. They can also appear on mucous membranes lining your nose, mouth, vagina, or anus.
Kaposi sarcoma is a less common type of skin cancer that affects mainly people with weakened immune systems. It develops in the blood vessels in your skin. Kaposi sarcoma causes red or purple patches on skin or mucuous membranes.
Kaposi sarcoma is more common in young men living in Africa and older men of Italian or Eastern Jewish European ancestry.
Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is an uncommon, aggressive form of skin cancer that originates in the skin's oil glands. This type of cancer presents most commonly in the eyelids, but it can deveop anywhere. It looks like hard, painless nodules.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Merkel cell carcinoma is a less common skin cancer that can be found on the head, neck, and torso. It presents as firm, shiny nodules that are on or just beneath the skin or hair follicles.
When it comes to skin cancer, use the 'ABCDE' rule.
It's understandable to worry that you might miss the signs of skin cancer because so many of them can be caused by a number of other things. When in doubt, consult the "ABCDE" rule.
A is for asymmetry, where one side of a birthmark, mole, or other growth doesn't match the other.
B is for border irregularity. If edges are unclear, uneven, or otherwise irregular, bring it to a doctor's attention. People will sometimes disregard these as blemishes or a rash, but the difference is that blemishes and rashes are both likely to clear within a matter of days.
C is for color. If color isn't the same throughout a mole or beauty mark, consult a doctor. Colors can include brown, red, pink, white, black, or blue.
D is for diameter. A spot that's more than 1/4 inch across should be checked out. Because spots that are small can be problematic, it's important to check your skin regularly so you're aware of new marks or changes in existing ones.
Last is E for evolving. If a growth, spot, mole, or other growth changes over time, get it checked out. That includes changes to size, shape, feel, or color.
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