There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. 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. If you are concerned or think you may show symptoms, please contact Stewart’s Dermatology today for a consultation!
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the world. Most people who develop this type of skin cancer have fair skin that has been exposed to harmful UV rays without the use of sunscreen or sun-protective clothing. Before they developed skin cancer, they often noticed signs of sun damage on their skin, such as age spots, patches of discolored skin, and deep wrinkles.
Finding and treating this skin cancer early can prevent it from growing deep. To do this, it helps to know the signs and symptoms of BCC.
One common sign is a slowly growing, non-healing spot that sometimes bleeds. BCC can also appear on the skin in other ways.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cells are found throughout the human body. These cells line organs, such as the lungs, throat, and thyroid. We also have squamous cells in our skin.
The job of squamous cells is to protect what lies beneath. In our skin, these cells sit near the surface, protecting the tissue beneath.
Anywhere we have squamous cells, we can develop a type of cancer called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
In the skin, this cancer is usually not life-threatening. It tends to grow slowly, but it can grow deep. When the cancer grows deep, it can injure nerves, blood vessels, and anything else in its path. As the cancer cells pile up, a large tumor can form.
Most people who develop this skin cancer have fair skin that they seldom protected with sunscreen or sun-protective clothing. Before developing this skin cancer, they tend to notice signs of sun damage on their skin, such as age spots, patches of discolored skin, and deep wrinkles.
Melanoma is a skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. It can look like the following:
- Changing mole
- Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
- Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, and is growing
- Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
- Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
- Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
- Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
- Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
- Wear protective clothing, such as a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, when possible.
- Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen whenever you are going to be outside, even on cloudy days.
- Apply enough sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their body.
- Don’t forget to apply to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears, and the top of your head.
- When outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, or sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.
- Consider using a self-tanning product if you want to look tan, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
- Perform regular skin self-exams to detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable, and see a board-certified dermatologist if you notice new or suspicious spots on your skin or anything changing, itching or bleeding.