What is skin cancer?
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Other much rarer types include Merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous lymphoma, and Kaposi sarcoma. The main risk factor for skin cancer is UV damage from sunlight and tanning beds. The risk goes up with cumulative sun damage, as well as a history of blistering sunburns. Other risk factors include fair skin, older age, a family history of skin cancer, and immune-suppressive medications.
Though we tend to see more cases in people aged 50 and older, skin cancer can occur at any age. Melanomas can occur in children, teens, and pregnant women, though luckily, this is not common.
Skin cancer most often occurs in sun-exposed areas of the skin, including the nose, ears, neck, scalp, chest, back, and extremities. Some forms, especially melanoma, can also occur in non-exposed areas of the skin, such as between the toes, buttocks, and groin area.
What are the warning signs of skin cancer?
BCC and SCC can appear as a new growth or bump on the skin. The growth may be a pink scaly bump, or a waxy, scar-like, or shiny growth. It may bleed or scab without any trauma, or appear as a pimple that persists over several months.
Melanoma can appear as a new mole that is growing, or in an existing mole that is changing. The ugly duckling sign is a mole that stands out and looks different from your normal moles.
There are five sets of warning signs that could demonstrate the presence of skin cancer cells. They are easy to remember as ABCDE.
- A for Asymmetrical: A mole’s shape can signal the possible presence of cancer. While many lesions are neatly rounded or symmetrical, the rapid and uncontrolled growth of cancer cells may lead to asymmetrically shaped lesions.
- B for Border: The borders of a precancerous lesion may be less defined than the clear ones of a benign mole, and may look like a spreading stain on the skin.
- C for Color: Moles, whether brown or otherwise, typically have an even distribution of one color. Watch for individual moles that show up in multiple colors or shades, appearing as a mesh of varying blacks and browns, or even red, blue, or white.
- D for Diameter: Though moles have great variation in size, one that is larger than six millimeters across may be a warning sign. Any mole that becomes the size of a pencil eraser should be examined.
- E for Evolution: An evolving or changing mole (in size, color, texture, or other traits) can indicate a growth or multiplication of cancer cells, and should be studied.
How is skin cancer treated?
Most skin cancer can be treated with
The best treatment for cancer is early detection. Precancerous lesions, such as actinic keratoses, can lead to SCC, but early treatment may prevent their progression. People with more than 50
A full-body skin exam can detect growths that have gone unnoticed by patients or are in skin areas that are difficult to see. Baseline yearly skin exams are recommended after age 50. Patients need skin exams at a younger age if they have a family history of melanoma, if they have had a previous skin cancer, or if they have other risk factors. Most importantly, all patients benefit from education about warning signs of skin cancers and ways to keep your skin healthy and protected from the sun.
Request a consultation in Meridian, Idaho
For skin cancer, Dr. Naomi Brooks focuses on early diagnosis and treatment of patients in Boise. A skin cancer diagnosis can be concerning, which is why Dr. Brooks endeavors to treat all her patients with compassion and empathy. She focuses on finding the right treatment for every patient based on the type and severity of the cancer, as well as the affected area. Most of all, by performing regular and complete skin exams, we hope to educate patients on early detection, self-skin exams, and prevention measures.