You have heard that the early detection of cancer will give you a fighting chance. This being the case, it is important to know the different types of skin cancer and how each presents itself on your skin. Skin cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in your skin. There are two main classifications namely non-melanoma or keratinocytic skin cancers and melanoma. You can also have some rare types of skin cancer, known as angiosarcoma and Merkel cell carcinoma. Non-melanoma skin cancers consist of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma skin cancer includes superficial melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
This type of skin cancer begins in the lower layer of the epidermis of your skin. It can grow over time but will rarely spread to other parts of your body. For easier and effective treatment, early identification is vital. If left untreated, it will grow deep into your skin and damage tissue. How will you know if you have BCC?
Basal cell carcinoma will usually present itself on the skin area that is exposed to the sun, for example, lower legs and arms, neck, head, face, back and shoulders. This does not mean it will not develop anywhere else.
It grows slowly over months and even years, appearing like pearl-coloured lumps and slightly scaly and shiny areas. They may be pale or have a bright pink colour, and some may be dark. You may also notice some bleeding and inflammation that may heal and then start again.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
This type of skin cancer begins in the upper layer of your skin's epidermis. Unlike BCC, SCC can spread to other parts of your body. If you notice squamous cell carcinoma on your lips or ears, visit a skin cancer clinic as soon as possible as it is more likely to spread.
SCC may be similar to BCC regarding the location on your body. It can also bleed and get inflamed, but will look different. It will appear as a thick red and scaly spot, at times it will be crusted, and you may note a rapid growth of a lump. Its growth is quicker than BCC, and it is more common as you grow older.
Melanoma begins in the melanocyte cells of your skin. It can spread to other organs or parts of your body including bones, brain, lymph nodes, liver and lungs. Early detection is critical. How will you know you have superficial melanoma?
Superficial melanoma will present itself as a spot on your body, either new or existing, that changes in colour, size and shape over some weeks or even months. It may have an irregular edge and a raised or flat surface. The colour may vary from pink, light grey, your skin tone, red, white, black or brown.