Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. In the U.S alone, doctors treat more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer each year.
And each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than new cases of breast, colon, prostate and lung cancers combined.
The good news is most are curable if found early and you can usually see it before it becomes a problem.
Examples of skin cancer include:
- Basal cell carcinoma: BCCs often look like pimples that won’t heal. They can appear pearly and can range in color. Some are skin colored or pink. Less commonly, they can be dark. Most BCCs happen on the head/ neck. If you think you might have a basal cell, see your dermatologist right away. You will likely need skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. The good news is BCCs are usually not life threatening. They are curable by surgical removal. It is important to treat BCCs because they can grow deeply and invade nearby structures. Left alone, they can be disfiguring or turn into large wounds that might get infected.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. There are about 1 million cases a year. SCCs look like red patches, open sores, crater shaped bumps, or wart-like growths. Sometimes they itch, bleed, or scab over. Most SCCs happen in sun exposed areas, but they can grow anywhere. If we find it early, most SCCs are curable. The treatment depends on how advanced the cancer is. If it stays in the top layer of skin, options include cryosurgery (cold spray), ED&C (scraping and cauterizing), or at home topicals. For SCCs that go deeper, you’ll probably need surgery. Left untreated, SCCs can grow in place or even spread.
- Melanoma: Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. The cause is out of control growth of the cells that make pigment, called melanocytes. Melanoma grows out of a mole in about 20% of cases. More often, it’s a new spot. Since melanoma can spread or metastasize, it’s important to find it early. There are some clues to know about: ABCDEs
- Asymmetry — not the sign on one side as the other
- Border — not a perfect circle or over
- Color — more than one color in the same spot
- Diameter — anything larger than a pencil eraser (6 mm)
- Evolution – change, this is the most important sign to recognize
The Ugly Duckling Sign moles in a person tend to look like each other. If you see a mole that looks different, or doesn’t seem to fit in, it’s suspicious.
Symptoms any mole that itches or bleeds should be checked.
Nail streaks dark streaks in the nail should be watched. Look for more than one color, wide bands, or color bleeding onto the skin.
- Dermatofibrosarcome protuberans: A DFSP is a rare type of cancer that comes from the skin’s connective tissue. They often start out looking like a scar or keloid on the trunk, arms, or legs. DFSPs don’t usually spread outside of the skin, but they can continue to grow outward in place. Eventually, they form hard lumps of tissue. If you have a growth that’s suspicious for DFSP, you’ll need a skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment for a confirmed DFSP is usually surgical, though some people might need radiation.
- Lymphoma of the skin: Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are part of the immune system. The main types of lymphomas are: Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Hodgkin disease, or Hodgkin’s disease) and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma (also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, NHL, or sometimes just lymphoma), which includes all skin lymphomas. Lymphocytes are in the lymph nodes (small, bean-sized collections of immune cells throughout the body) and other lymphoid tissues (such as the spleen, bone marrow, and some other organs, including the skin). Lymphomas can start in any of these places. When a non-Hodgkin lymphoma starts only in the skin (not in other organs or tissues) it is called a skin lymphoma (or cutaneous lymphoma). A lymphoma that starts in lymph nodes or another part of the body and then spreads to the skin is not a skin lymphoma (because it didn’t start there).
- Kaposi’s Sarcoma: A cancer that causes lesions in the soft tissues.Kaposi sarcoma causes lesions to grow in the skin, lymph nodes, internal organs, and mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, and throat. It often affects people with immune deficiencies, such as HIV or AIDS. Purple, red, or brown skin blotches are a common sign. Tumors also may develop in other areas of the body. Treatment may include radiation or chemotherapy. Rarely, surgery may be needed.
- Merkel cell carcinoma: Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC) is a type of skin cancer that’s very rare, but very aggressive. Scientists think it might be linked to a virus called the Merkel Cell Polyomavirus. Almost everyone who gets it is older than 50 and has had lots of sun exposure. Men get it more than women. MCCs usually come up on the head or neck. They can look like sores, pimples, or bug bites that won’t go away. Most of the time, they’re painless. Since this type of cancer is dangerous, it’s important to find it as early as possible. If you notice any new growth that doesn’t heal or go away within a couple of weeks, see your dermatologist right away.
Any growth that’s new, changing, growing, itching, or bleeding is suspicious. Even though skin cancer is often easy to spot and treat, certain types can be deadly when left untreated. When found early, skin cancer is highly treatable. A dermatologist can help you decide which option is best for you based on the location, severity, and type of cancer.
If you’re interested in a screening or receiving treatment, schedule an appointment with Dr. Maryann Mikhail of Waverly Derm Spa today by calling our office located in Fort Lauderdale, FL at 954-666-3736.