Three Common Types of Skin Cancers
Common Skin Cancers
There are several types of skin cancers, including melanoma, basal and squamous cell. They are the most common serious skin cancers.
The approximate number of basal cell carcinomas diagnosed annually are 2 million and this is the most common type of skin cancer. The number of people in the U.S. diagnosed each year with invasive melanomas are 96,480 adults (57,220 men and 39,260 women), while 132,00 are diagnosed around the world each year. Skin cancers do not often metastasize, but they can be deadly is they do.
Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas
Basal cell cancers rarely reach an advanced stage, however, they can be difficult to treat if they do become advanced. Squamous cells are flat and located in the upper part of the epidermis. They are shed as new ones form. Approximately 2 out of 10 skin cancers are from squamous cells. Squamous cell cancers can usually be completely removed. This cancer is also called Bowen Disease.
Basal cell cancer is the most common skin cancer, and it starts in the basal cell layer of the skin. Approximately 8 out of 10 skin cancers are from basal cells. This is located in the lower part of the epidermis. This cancer type must be completely removed because it may return in the same spot. These cancers are usually found on the neck, face or head, which are in sun-exposed areas of the skin. It grows slowly and it may grow into nearby areas of the body. It can also invade bone if left untreated.
Squamous cell cancer can start in the genital region, which accounts for a large percentage of deaths from skin cancer. The bulk of these cancers are related to an infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV), which comes from sexual contact. There are available vaccines to help prevent infection from HPV, which are given to reduce cervical cancer risk. The vaccines are available for men also. The use of condoms is recommended and the limiting number of sexual partners is helpful.
Melanoma is a most aggressive skin cancer. The growth may occur anywhere on the body. Melanomas develop in melanocytes, producing melanin, which is the pigment that gives skin its color. It can also form in the eye and very rarely on internal organs.
Hidden melanomas may occur in the eye, under a nail, on the palms, on the soles of the feet and in between toes. There are also mucosal melanomas that can be found in the mucous membrane of the nose, esophagus, mouth, anus, vagina and urinary tract.
A change in a mole or a new pigmented area appearing on your skin should be seen by a dermatologist. A normal mole is all the same color, such as tan, brown or black, and it has a distinct border. The average person has anywhere between 10 to 45 moles by the time they are 50 years of age.
Mayo Clinic has published a list of melanoma characteristics, listed below:
“To help you identify characteristics of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers, think of the letters ABCDE:
A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders — characteristics of melanomas.
The laboratory equipment has vastly improved over the past several years. For instance, optical biopsies may be diagnosed using reflective confocal microscopy (RCM) and optical coherence tomography (OCT).
Squamous and basal cell cancers do not typically spread, but i
C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
E is for evolving. Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding.”
How Skin Cancer Spreads-Mayo Clinic
An excisional, incisional or punch biopsy is used for a biopsy, which depends on the size, type and location of the cancer. If the cancer spreads it is more difficult to treat.
The current medical focus is to try and determine if the cancer is likely to spread. Recent research has shown that squamous cell cancers have a lower level of the INPP5A protein, and they are more likely to spread.
Skin Cancer Treatments
Treatments vary and are based on the type of skin cancer and include:
- Surgical removal and radiation for skin cancer are the most common treatments.
- Chemotherapy is also used for radiating cancers.
- Biological therapy will boost the patient’s immune system. This therapy is designed to treat melanoma and uses interferon, interleukin-2, nivolumab (Opdivo), ipilimumab (Yervoy) and pembrolizumab (Keytruda).
- Targeted therapy may be designed to treat specific vulnerabilities in cancer cells. Targeted drugs (hedgehog pathway inhibitors) help some people with basal cell nevus syndrome.
There is a form of B3 (nicotinamide) is sometimes prescribed for high-risk people to lower the risk of basal and squamous cell cancers.
For patients at a higher risk for skin conditions, chemoprevention may be prescribed to reduce their risk. This is specifically used for patients with a compromised immune system or if the patient has certain congenital conditions.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
Doctors do not know the cause of skin cancer, but they consider ultraviolet light from the sun or a tanning bed to be the biggest risk factor.
Other risk factors include:
- Being fair skinned gives you less protection from UV radiation
- Blonds, redheads, light colored eyes or freckles increases risk
- Family history of melanomas like a close relative with melanoma
- Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure the sun or a tanning bed
- History of being sunburnt, with 1 or more times of a severe burn with blisters
- Living closer to the equator or at a high elevation
- Having unusual moles or numerous moles (over 50) increases your risk
- Having a weakened immune system
The 4 Stages of Melanoma: The Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer - Mayo Clinic
Skin Cancer Prevention
One of the best ways to treat skin cancer is to do self-exams. stand in front of a full-length mirror and examine your the front and back of your body. Then, check the soles of your feet, between your fingers and toes and look at your finger and toe nails. This is the best chance for finding the cancer at an early stage.
Specific behaviors for prevention include:
- Avoid tanning beds and lamps,
- Use sunscreen (SPF-40) all year long
- Become familiar with your body so you will know if you have a new or changed growth
- Avoid the sun at midday, between 10 Am and 4 PM
- Wear protective clothing
Many doctors think skin cancers are preventable. The self exams will go a long way in alerting you of a new growth or skin changes. There are a wealth of medical studies in progress, so the future is brighter for those with an advanced skin cancer.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2020 Pamela Oglesby