Skin cancer may appear as an enlarging growth.
Skin cancer occurs when DNA damage to skin cells causes cells to mutate. The mutated skin cells may multiply and develop into malignant tumors. The DNA damage to skin cells may be caused by one of the following: ultraviolet (UV) radiation (the sun), tanning beds and in some cases by melanoma genetic factors.
There are three common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and malignant melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type and the least serious, but can grow to quite large cancerous lesions if not treated. Squamous cell carcinoma is also relatively common and has a higher tendency to metastasize (spread to other areas and organs of the body). Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Skin cancer may appear as an enlarging growth, a sore which bleeds or will not heal, or a changing mole. Skin cancers may be flesh-toned, red, brown, black, or blue. They may be smooth, scaly, scabbed, or ulcerated. They can be flat or raised, itchy or asymptomatic. If you have any suspicious lesions, please see your dermatologist.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma may be caused by the cumulative sun exposure over the course of a lifetime. The risks of melanoma depends on a person's history of sun exposure, the number of moles, skin type and family history.
Basal cell carcinomas can sometimes resemble skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. They most commonly present as a non-healing, open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts. Most commonly basal cell carcinomas form on sun-exposed areas such as the face, hands, arms and shoulders/upper back.
Squamous cell carcinomas look like red scaly patches, raised growths with a depression, or open sores that may crust or bleed. Squamous cell carcinomas can form anywhere on the skin, including on the lips and genitalia.
Melanoma skin cancers often resemble moles, and can be black or brown in color. Melanoma can be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma may arise in pre-existing moles or on sun-damaged skin. It can develop on any part of person's skin including locations such as fingernails, toenails and genitalia.
Often referred to as the ABCDE's of Skin Cancer, there are 5 fairly simple warning signs to look for on moles:
A=Asymmetry. If one half of a mole does not match the other half.
B=Border. If there is an irregular, ragged, blurry or notching appearance on a mole.
C=Color. If a mole's color is inconsistent in appearance. Moles can appear black, brown or tan, but a mole that is more than one color may be suspect.
D=Diameter. Melanonas are generally larger than the size of a typical pencil eraser, or larger than 1/4 of an inch or 6 millimeters. However, thye can be smaller when initially detected.
E=Evolving. Any changes in appearance, be it size, color, shape or growth (such as it appears to be protruding more), or if it bleeds, forms crusts or causes itching.
Treatment of skin cancer depends on the type of cancer. Malignant melanoma is always treated by surgical excision. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma are frequently treated by surgical excision. A special type of treatment is called Mohs Micrographic Surgery (Mohs) skin cancer surgery. In Mohs surgery, the tumor is checked by frozen section to be sure all the tumor is removed before closing the incision. Superficial Radiation Therapy is a low-energy radiotherapy which is a non-invasive procedure used to treat non-melanoma skin cancers in certain body areas where surgery and reconstruction might not achieve the best results. Other treatments for basal cell carcinoma include curettage and electrodesiccation (scraping and burning).