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The most prevalent of all types of cancers.
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year. It is very important to monitor anything unusual on the skin and have it checked by a dermatology office. Early treatment is essential!
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer and appears frequently on the head, neck, and hands as a small, fleshy bump, nodule, or red patch. Other parts of the body may be affected as well. Basal cell carcinomas are frequently found in fair-skinned people and rarely occur in dark skin. They do not spread quickly. It can take many months or years for one to grow to a diameter of one-half inch. Untreated, the cancer often will begin to bleed, crust over, heal, and repeat the cycle.
Although this type of cancer rarely metastasizes (spreads to other parts of the body), it may extend below the skin to the bone and nerves, causing considerable local damage.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer; it is primarily found in fair-skinned people and rarely in dark-skinned individuals. Typically located on the rim of the ear, the face, lips, and mouth, this cancer may appear as a bump, or as a red, scaly patch. SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, this form of cancer can metastasize (spread to other parts of the body); therefore, it is important to get early treatment.
When found early and treated properly, the cure rate for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas is over 95 percent.
Malignant melanoma (MM) is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Every year, an estimated 7,700 Americans will die from melanoma; it is projected greater than 46,000 Americans will develop melanoma annually. The death rate is declining because melanoma is usually curable when detected in its early stages and patients are seeking help sooner.
Melanoma begins in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin which makes the skin tan. Since melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black, although it can also be red or white. Melanoma can metastasize (spread), making treatment essential.
Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on the body to detect changes early. Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage.
Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. Light-skinned individuals are at particular risk. Heredity also plays a part. A person has an increased chance of developing melanoma if melanoma has been found in a relative or close family member. Atypical moles (dysplastic nevi), which may run in families, and found in persons with a large number of moles, can serve as markers for people at increased risk for developing melanoma.
Dark skin is not a guarantee against melanoma. People with skin of color can develop melanoma, especially on the palms, soles, under the nails, in the mouth, or on the genitalia.