Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas are the most frequently occurring form of skin cancer. They often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps or scars. They are most typically found on parts of the skin that get the most sun exposure such as the head, neck, arms and upper chest.
Basal cell carcinomas can appear in any of the following ways:
- Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
- Raised reddish patches that may be itchy or painful
- Shiny bump that is pearly or clear, pink or red in color, but could also be blue, brown or black
- Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center
- Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then come back
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common type of skin cancer. They often look like red scaly patches, open sores that won’t heal or heal and then come back, or raised growths with an indented center. Like basal cell carcinomas, they are mainly found on parts of the skin that see frequent exposure to the sun.
Squamous cell carcinomas can appear in any of the following ways:
- Rough or scaly red patches that might crust or bleed
- Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
- Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and come back
- Wart-like growths that will occasionally crust and/or bleed
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are common skin growths caused by too much sun exposure. They are usually small, rough or scaly spots that may be pink-red or flesh colored. They typically appear on areas of the skin that gets the most sun exposure, such as the face, head, ears, neck, chest, back, arms, hands, and lower legs. Actinic keratoses are not skin cancers but some can develop into squamous cell carcinomas. It is important to monitor these skin growths with your doctor and note if they change over time.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. They often look like black or brown moles, but they can also be skin colored, pink, red, blue, purple or white. If found and treated early, melanoma is almost always curable. However, if it is not found early, it can spread to other parts of the body where it becomes harder to treat and can be fatal.
To identify this type of skin cancer, look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma:
Assymetry – One half of a mole or birthmark is different from the other.
Border – The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
Color – The color is not the same all over. The color may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
Diameter – The spot is larger than 6 millimeters. However, some melanomas can be smaller.
Evolving – The mole is changing in size, shape or color.
If you see one or more of these signs, contact your doctor immediately and schedule an appointment for a skin exam.
It is important to note that not all melanomas show the above signs. If you have a spot on your skin that you are concerned about, have it examined by your doctor.